How To Create a Pencil …

Here is a classic clip of legendary American economist Milton Friedman explaining “the magic of the price system” (free markets) as being responsible for the distribution of knowledge and skills necessary to make everyday goods such as the pencil.

Although I am not personally a fan of Friedman (see Klein’s Shock Doctrine), I appreciate this clip at a topical level as it helps to describe complicated processes before us.

Microsoft Moves to Limit ULPCs

Microsoft has launched a campaign to promote the use of Windows OS in ultra low-cost PC notebooks. However, the company is asking hardware manufacturers to limit the hardware capabilities of these machines as to avoid cannibalizing sales of higher-end notebook computers.

Microsoft plans to offer PC makers steep discounts on Windows XP Home Edition to encourage them to use that OS instead of Linux on ultra low-cost PCs (ULPCs). To be eligible, however, the PC vendors that make ULPCs must limit screen sizes to 10.2 inches and hard drives to 80G bytes, and they cannot offer touch-screen PCs.

has found a niche in this market, as it has been available on the XO, the Eee, and others. ULPCs have great potential to solve problems around access and affordability to technology in the classroom. It’s unfortunate that the true potential of computers like this will not be realized due to manipulation of the marketplace by companies like Microsoft.

OLPC & Education

If you follow me on Twitter, you’d know that I have been trying to get people to convince me of the value of OLPC. I have been intending to write a comprehensive post on some of these responses and my thoughts, but I just noticed an important post from Teemu Leinonen that will the gap in the meanwhile.

Leinonen shares that likely the greatest accomplishment of OLPC so far is that it has created a market for low-cost educational computers.

One Laptop per Child – the laptop project of the OLPC association, a North American non-profit has change the markets of low-cost mobile computers for educational sector. Even that in the OLPC there are such a multi-billion industry sponsors as the AMD, Google, Nortel, and Newscorp, the achievement of changing a whole market, or actually creating it, is absolutely remarkable.

In 2008 we will have the Intel’s Classmate ($250), Zonbu notebook ($279 + $14.95/month), Asus Eee laptop ($299-399), Nokia Internet Tablets ($150-$299), Nova NetPC “thin client” system (around $80/unit), and the OLPC’s XO laptop ($200).

Leinonen then goes on to argue that the OLPC is really a laptop project, and not an education project (as OLPC founder Negroponte continues to state). Leinonen follows with three reasons why the OLPC is in fact a laptop project. These include:

    – The OLPC has shown total lack of understanding of education as a system.
    – The OPLC has a naive believe on computer technology (per se) as a silver bullet in education.
    – The OLPC do not understand different cultures and traditions.

From everything I have seen related to OLPC, I would have to agree with Leinonen. There are some excellent points here, and the post is certainly worth the read. Most importantly, I think, Leinonen doesn’t see this all as negative, rather, he calls for a greater educational emphasis on the project.

I have a lot more to say about this, but it is much too late, and morning is near.