Wayan Vota and I are agreed that Nicholas Negroponte is crazy. What divides us is the question whether Nicholas is crazy enough. (I am indebted to Niels Bohr for making this distinction early in the 20th century in the context of quantum mechanics.)
- Is it insane to offer the governments of the world a chance to buy a $100 computer for up to a billion children? Of course, especially when you haven't even discussed the other associated costs. It turned out that the XO cost $189, without electricity, Internet, or teacher training.
- Is it insane to promise sales of 8 million units in the first year? Of course, especially when it turns out that you have done so on the strength of handshakes from Heads of State and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), not purchase orders. In fact only two million were sold in the first two years, and not all of those have been delivered.
- Is it insane to insist that Microsoft put Windows on the XO? Of course, especially when it turns out that no government wants it, and the volunteers hate it. Microsoft paid to have Windows XP put on 5,000 units which it donated to governments for trials. Nobody has ordered any since.
- Is it insane to rave on and on about hardware in what is supposed be an education project? Of course, especially when you dump software development and teacher training on others, such as Sugar Labs and Open Learning Exchange (OLE) Nepal, and then don't talk to them publicly.
- Is it insane to talk about the XO-1.5, the XO-2, and the XO-3.0? Of course, especially when only the XO-1.5 exists, and is not yet in production.
So, yes, Nicholas is insane. Rather like Leonardo da Vinci, or Michaelangelo Buonarotti, or Galileo Galilei, or the Wright brothers, or Nikola Tesla, in their various ways. And he is insane enough to get funding for the project, and manufacturing, and buyers, and volunteers. Is he insane enough to get countries to buy computers for up to a billion children? Time will tell. But he is not completely insane.
- Is it insane to promise a $75 replacement for the XO-1? Of course not, especially when you have Mary Lou Jepsen costing it for you, and inventing one of the key assemblies.
Nobody would accuse Mary Lou Jepsen of product-based insanity. She has started what will become a multi-billion-dollar company in San Francisco, with dozens of market segments of hundreds of millions of units a year, each. Of course, it takes time to create such a company.
- Time to invent the technologies, which she did at MIT before and during the XO development process.
- Time to raise money from venture capitalists, which she did after leaving OLPC.
- Time to create prototypes.
- Time to talk with prospective customers, particularly in Taiwan, where Mary Lou has been spending most of her time.
- Time to get engineering samples made and distributed.
- Time for customer engineers to qualify parts and design them into new products.
But those times are over. Now it's product time, to be followed by production expansion and market share grabbing time. Slashgear (among many others) tells us "Notion Ink Tegra Android smartpad uses Pixel Qi display". This
as-yet unnamed Android "smartpad" is based on an unnanounced NVIDIA Tegra T20 chipset supporting 1080p Full HD video playback, has integrated WiFi, Bluetooth and UMTS/HSDPA, and - perhaps most interestingly - is the first confirmed device to use the Pixel Qi transflective display
- 10.1-inch 1024 x 600 display
- digital compass
- proximity, ambient light, and water sensors
- 3.5mm headphone jack and microphone input
- 3-megapixel autofocus camera with video recording support
- 16GB or 32GB of SSD
- No hard drive
- SD slot
- Android OS
Now you might think that it is crazy to offer 1080p video on a 1024 × 600 display, and it would be. But notice the HDMI output.
And this isn't a $75 laptop or tablet. We don't have a price yet, although a lot of people in the business are hoping for $300. We'll find out at the next Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in a few weeks. But what does it become if you cut out the features that an XO doesn't require? Android, GPS and other sensors, the NVIDIA graphics chipset, HDMI, some of the storage, some of the resolution,...?
And that's not all. How about a $100, low-power HDTV from Pixel Qi to connect the Notion Ink product to?
How would you like one of each in your stockings next holiday season? Now, who wants to bet against that $75 XO-x.x tablet?