April Technology Salon: The Rise of 4P Computing

One year ago this week, One Laptop Per Child changed its mission, dropping its invitation for lower-cost alternatives to the XO laptop. Was that a reaction just to Intel’s Classmate PC, or amazing foresight?
Either way, a year later we are witnessing a dramatic change in the low-cost laptop marketplace. New low-cost laptops, or as I am now calling them, 4P Computing (Power, Performance, Portability, Price) are popping up daily with entrants from the practical Asus Eee PC to the seemingly comical Van Der Led.

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The Rise of 4P Computing Solutions for the Developing World


The first 4PC entrant

Last August, I crowded a few friends into a Japanese restaurant in Silicon Valley to talk about technology in the developing world. Back then, the discussion swirled around One Laptop Per Child, as it was the most visible manifestation of our collective drive to spread appropriate information and communication technology beyond the world’s elite.

That’s because three years ago, Nicholas Negroponte stunned the technology industry and the development community with an amazing idea: One Laptop Per Child – a rugged yet low-cost computing device, the XO laptop, can empower primary education in the developing world.

His idea that low-power, appropriate performance, highly portable, and low-priced computers were not only possible, but could also radically change education in the developing world and computer manufacturing in the developed world was an instant hit with Presidents of the Global South.

While the global telecommunications industry was quick to dismiss his idea as folly, as I told the Economist in its article “The rise of the low-cost laptop“, they did not laugh long:

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