Now this is ambitious. Nicholas Negroponte is putting forth the idea that after developing the XO-1, all he has to do is describe a possible XO-3 product - pure vaporware - and the market will race to create it before he can. That's his claim in an extended Xconomy interview about the XO-3 tablet:
"We may not ever build it," he says. That's largely because competition in the tablet and education spaces is so intense that commercial computer makers might fill the void themselves. "The interesting thing about now versus five years ago - five years ago, we had to build a laptop, because there wasn't a laptop" geared for the developing world, he says.
Now, Negroponte says, it's possible that "we don't have to build a tablet. All we [might] have to do is threaten to build a tablet. And what's interesting is that the key features of our tablet are ideas we want people to copy. So our IP will be as open as humanly possible."
If One Laptop Per Child still had its engineering experts like Mary Lou Jepsen that might be true. And if Negroponte didn't tip his hand so blatantly, like he did in this interview, maybe he could change an industry just by describing vaporware like this list from the interview:
- 100 percent plastic: "So it will be unbreakable," he explains. "That's very key. It's not soft, but it's bendable. The way to make something unbreakable is to have it be bendable."
- Super thin and lightweight: Comparing the XO 3 to the iPad, Negroponte says, "It's exactly the same size and screen size, smaller bezel." (The bezel is the rim around the computer screen.)
- Haptic feedback: The idea is that when you use the onscreen keypad, it gives you force feedback that feels like typing on a regular keyboard.
- Dual mode display: Like the current XO laptop, the XO 3 would have a display that works both indoors and in bright sunlight. This might be the toughest part to produce, and Negroponte says it is one big reason the tablet won't be ready before 2012.
- Extremely low power: "What I'd like to do," says Negroponte, "is have it so you can just shake it so it will charge...you know wrist watches have worked that way for years."
But for all my respect for his marketing skill - and I do think he's a mad-genius at spin - he may just be over-reaching with this one. Its one thing to use subterfuge to get others to react how you want them to, but it usually means you can't tell them, or they'll see the bluff for what it is.
Oh and no credit in claiming impact if a random device comes to market with some of these features. To be a change agent vs. a futurist, you have to directly make things happen, as you want them to.