The One Laptop Per Child Foundation, a group that I’ve criticized in the past because they think giving children a laptop will immediately solve their problems versus something more useful like a bag of rice and malaria vaccinations, has received $5.6 million from Marvell to design an Android tablet based around their chipset solutions. That’s certainly one way to buy yourself a customer, and while Marvell may be attracting a large customer, pending the OLPC Foundation actually ships something versus spending all day posting pretty concept videos on YouTube, the margins are going to be so thin that it isn’t going to make a difference whether 1 million of these tablets get sold or 1 billion.
Back before netbooks, if you can even remember that far, the OLPC folks set a goal of making a laptop that would cost $100. The private sector, fearing for their lives since they wanted to maintain the already minuscule profits they were making on laptops, jumped head first into the battle with what today we now know as a netbook. The goal of $100 was never reached, and instead of building a product for the children in emergine economies, the netbook became a toy for rich white people who want a second computer to carry around with them so that they’re never away from Facebook, Twitter, and every other social network that strokes their ego into believing that they just may be someone important.
Amazon made the Kindle less than $150, and that price will undoubtedly drop to under $100 by next year and possibly $50 within this decade. There’s little doubt that Taiwanese manufacturers, in order to compete with Apple, will build tablets that cost $300 to $400 and like everything else in the technology industry, that price will come down with time. So sorry One Laptop Per Child, you may as well take that $5.6 million and teach African children how to properly irrigate crops and use protection as to not spread AIDS. What exactly is giving those kids access to Wikipedia going to do if they can’t even live to experience their 5th birthday?
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