Netbooks: Not Designed for Developing World Children

   
   
   
   
   

Recently, Vital Wave Consulting, of TCO fame, did a in-depth Landscape Analysis of Low-cost Computing Devices. In that report, they came away with an amazing conclusion:

While lower-income users in rural areas are often named as the target market for low-cost computing devices, this research shows that manufacturers are targeting higher-income customers (generally wealthy urban dwellers in developing countries or those in developed countries). This focus can lead to higher demands for performance capabilities and less emphasis on alternative, lower-energy consumption options or ruggedization


Still the best educational netbook

This conclusion is amazing in the sense that it leave open a huge market opportunity for OLPC, if it sees the developing world consumers, vs. governments, as a target market for the XO laptop.

I for one, feel that One Laptop Per Child is leaving Billions of dollars on the table for others to take, if it fails to realize that the real market maker, the customer that isn't price sensitive, and who is viscerally hungry for the XO educational experience, are the billions of parents of children in the developing world, not their respective governments.

Think about that for a moment. If you are a parent, like I am, you know that your child's education is literally priceless. You will move, work, sacrifice for your child without question. Those without children may not understand the full intensity of that emotion - I did not before I was a father. But I can assure you that the XO laptop, marketed as the "ultimate learning tool for your child" would be a top seller world-wide.

And that market is still wide open.

As much as I love the HP Mini Note for my wife, or feel that the ASUS Eee PC 901 is the best netbook for the developing world business man, neither of them are designed for children to learn learning in the developing world.

That title belongs to One Laptop Per Child's Childrens Machine XO, if they would only believe...

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18 Comments

I'm afraid you're drawing the wrong conlcusions, Wayan.

The paragraph you quote says two important things:

"...research shows that manufacturers are targeting higher-income customers...This focus can lead to higher demands for performance capabilities and less emphasis on alternative, lower-energy consumption options or ruggedization"

So, it means that those people would not be interested in a low-performance device like the XO. That's why the XO would not sell in the USA, Europe or anywhere else(remember G2G2?): people don't want it; people (for better or worse - who cares?) want a regular computer, with a mainstream OS and readily available hardware and software.

So,there is NONE of the opportunity you talk about. Sorry, mate, but you arrived at the wrong conclusion.

Netbooks are targeted as second computers for the developed world - for users like you. That doesn't mean there is a lack of consumer demand for computing in developing world educational environments - just that netbooks are not optimized for it.

Which means the demand is unsatisfied.

Now I believe the XO could satisfy consumer demand for educational tools. You don't. Sadly, neither of us will know who is right, as OLPC doesn't see consumers as its target market.

Wayan wrote:

"Netbooks are targeted as second computers for the developed world - for users like you."

and you, and your mother, too, Wayan. They are for everyone one, don't you think?


"That doesn't mean there is a lack of consumer demand for computing in developing world educational environments - just that netbooks are not optimized for it."

Yes, the developing world needs and wants computers as much as the developed world. I never said otherwise.

"Which means the demand is unsatisfied."

Whatever demand there is is being addressed by all computer makers, incliding OLPC. The only problem is that, as the article you cite says, that demand is NOT for devices like the XO. That was my point.

"Now I believe the XO could satisfy consumer demand for educational tools. You don't."

There is no proof whatsoever that your assertion is true, but perhaps you know something nobody else knows.


"Sadly, neither of us will know who is right, as OLPC doesn't see consumers as its target market."

Consumers rejected the product (remember G2G2?); governements rejected the product (remember the dreams of millions of computers being bought by 3rd. World governments?); the article you cite explicitly says that the people who can afford computers place "higher demands for performance capabilities and less emphasis on alternative, lower-energy consumption options or ruggedization";

The writing is on the wall, for those who can or want to read it.

@Irvin:
"There is no proof whatsoever that your assertion is true, but perhaps you know something nobody else knows."

Proof is for mathematics. In the empirical realm, there is only evidence. And evidence is never complete, nor final.

There is ample evidence that computers and ICT in general can help schools and students in their education. That is why all students in the developed world either have a computer and internet access or desperately want it (eg, read the adventures of the Helios project:
http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/
).

The fact that the USA is unable to provide all it's citizens with adequate education is in itself not an argument against developing countries trying to succeed on this point. Most other developed countries have indeed been able to reach almost all of their children (often relying on ICT in education).

Given the dearth of reading materials (libraries) and other information and educational tools in the developing world, a good case has been made that a small rugged laptop with internet access could be of tremendous help to children.

Whether or not the target countries can or want to spend the money on OLPC laptops is a question of alternatives, resources, priorities, logistics, and politics. The usefulness of the laptops is only one of many considerations.

Irvin, given that the last time we argued over "evidence", you broke out in name calling, I understand you are not really interested in any information or discussion that doesn't support your "point".

but if you changed your mind, see again:
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/technology/next-gen_educational_computers.html#comment-269154


Winter

As always, pure nosense coming from you, Winter.

There is no evidence, proof or even indication that the XO is of any use in the classroom or away from it. If the product were coming from Microsoft or Intel, you'd be singing a completely different tune.

But, then again, you are not known for your intellectual honesty (or love for the USA)...

Insult over substance any time, don't you Irvin.

@Irvin:
"There is no evidence, proof or even indication that the XO is of any use in the classroom or away from it."

Your requests for "proof" (even if interpreted as evidence) are always too vague to allow for an answer. What should be proven:

That this version of the XO laptop works for that specific child in Thailand with that specific female teacher?

Too silly to answer.


That there are children that would be helped with a laptop?

You do not want to hear of it.

So unless you are more specific about what you actually want to "know" I do not see what could be an answer. (where I understand you never want to learn something new as you have shown no interest in technology, education, or economic development ever)

@Irvin:
"If the product were coming from Microsoft or Intel, you'd be singing a completely different tune."

I do not care about the hardware chosen. Intel, AMD, or ARM is the same for me.

Microsoft has a long and well documented history of bad intentions and even worse software. They never showed any inclination to protect their users in any way.

So, indeed, I do not believe that MS software will help anyone to get educated and might be positively bad for children. But they can prove me wrong any time.

But you would not care either way. As long as you can bad-mouth Negroponte and anyone who comes in your way.

Winter

While I have no children I understand the feeling that every parent have, I have family children that I love.

The question is: Is the XO going to be useful for education, or will it bring the door to a new world of distractions(video, internet, games, messenger) that will make it impossible for the kids to concentrate(constant interruptions) and do real things?

I think both of them are true. Is really necessary that children use computers from such early ages. I understand computers (I program them today) and only had my own at 18 years old, we had the Spectrum, and Atari ST, but only played games on them.

Jose,

You bring the critical question to the fore: is the XO an effective learning tool for primary school age children?

I still feel that OLPC has not answered that question directly, but is relying on the assumption that computers are good for children's education. If they could show the XO to be the better tool, or at least a cost-effective one, the consumer-level demand would be massive.

Wayan, I think you are absolutely correct. The primary target for the XO should be parents, not governments.

Developing world governments are too poor, incompetent and corrupt, at least in most cases, to really do olpc correctly. Parents, on the other hand, are focused like a laser on education for their offspring.

The problem, though, is that the X0-1 is simply too expensive, plus it uses too much power. That is where the X0-2 comes in. I predict that when it comes out -- and when oem's start selling similar devices designed by Pixel Qi to the general public -- then we will see developing world parents by the tens or hundreds of millions buying them up.

So why didn't Negroponte say this from the begining? My guess is he knew perfectly well this is the way to go, but knew he needed a few years of government support to get the project to the point where the XO could sell on its own.

At $200, the XO isn't too expensive, and its Watt draw is crazy low - lower than any comparable computer.

Now if only OLPC would sell them at $200 to individuals...

$200 is too expensive for most developing world families to spend.

As for power, remember that half the people in the developing world have no electric power, and for most of the rest it is very unreliable (i.e. regular blackouts, brownouts, and voltage fluctuations)

XO-2 solves these problems, and unlike X0-1 the technologies are going to be used and sold by many oem's, rather than being under the highly restrictive control of olpc

Wayan,

I completely agree with you, I even wrote a post about it ;-)
http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/future_educational_laptop_per_child.html

It is obvious that the laptops should be targeted to children in poor areas. Anyone requesting expensive or fragile features that are irrelevant for school children obviously does not care about these children.

However, I seriously doubt your idea that the parents could buy these laptops.

If there is one thing we know from investments, health care, and education is that even literate people have a lot of difficulty seeing the difference between snake oil and working remedies.

I am afraid that most parents (even in the USA) will not know how to select an effective machine from expensive lemons sold as "educational" computers.

I am afraid that just as in investments, medicine, and education, there should be some kind of governmental oversight of quality. Which, I know, leaves itself to corruption and manipulation.

(before the libertarians come out to shoot, the current financial meltdown does show that some effective government oversight was badly needed, the scandals have been seen before in health care and education)

Winter

If there is one thing we know from investments, health care, and education is that even literate people have a lot of difficulty seeing the difference between snake oil and working remedies.

Ok, so the government could evaluate education netbooks that are being sold to the public, and certify the ones which meet its standards.

But I don't think it would be necessary. Parents can see if their children are learning to read or not, and in villages word gets around pretty fast.

@eduardo montez:
"Parents can see if their children are learning to read or not, and in villages word gets around pretty fast."

I really hope so.

However, I see a lot of well educated parents in my country sending their children to "fancy" schools with "fancy" ideas about education that invariably end up in the achievement tables below the worst schools for disadvantaged children.

Winter

I bought a Dell Mini netbook last weekend because it was on sale. It runs WinXP quite well, and can do YouTube very well. But I am still preferring my XO-1 for most web surfing because it is more comfortable overall, and less complicated. The Dell gets uncomfortably hot on the bottom, especially when doing YouTube.

The XO is definitely a better machine for its target market of poor little kids.

Most families in the third world live off of less than $200 dollars a month. I'm sure the parents care alot about educating their children, but when the choice comes between a laptop and feeding the family for a month, I have a feeling that food is going to win out. That is why governments were targeted for the XO. Families cannot afford the luxury of a computer.

I own an XO from the first G1G1 program. I think it is well suited to children in developing countries, but if I had a kid and wanted him to have a laptop for educational purposes I would get an inexpensive laptop or netbook and install Fedora 10 or 11 on it, which includes the Sugar environment if you choose to install it. With Sugar installed what you would have is a more powerful XO with more available disk space. Or you could buy a surplus desktop computer and monitor and do the same thing.

There is another project called Sugar on a Stick which will enable kids to carry a complete Sugar environment on a thumb drive. They can use this on their computer at home or at school without having to install anything.

My conclusion is that there are several good, cheap ways for kids in the developed world to get the benefits an XO would give them. OLPC should focus their efforts on the developing world, as they have been doing.

Did it comes with Windows XP? Because Winter seems to think no Netbook is sold with a flash SSD and Windows XP, because he thinks flash is so crappy that Windows will burn through it in a matter of minutes.

Guess he never heard of this little company called "Dell"
http://www.dell.com/content/products/productdetails.aspx/laptop-inspiron-9?c=us&cs=19&l=en&s=dhs

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