Results tagged “OLPC” from Wayan Dot Com

Earlier this month, I had the luxury of inspecting a new Omatek Smartbook at the Ministry of Education in Ghana. The Smartbook is a low-cost laptop aimed at the education market, and with one look, you'l know its an XO laptop derivative:

It also happens to be one of the many 4P Computers that are coming out of the developing world. Not content to leave the 4PC market to Asus, these local computer manufactures are making their own low-cost, highly-portable, power-efficient, and performance-relative computers for local and regional markets.

Omatek Computers is a Nigerian company with a computer assembly factory in Ghana. This allows Omatek to produce computers tax free for Ghana and Nigeria, within certain quotas, giving it a competitive advantage over international vendors.

Add in the reference designs shared freely by the chipset manufacturers and local companies like Omatek are the next wave of real innovation the in 4P Computing market - more creative than Intel or OLPC, and over the long term, more game-changing.

As soon as one of these vendors realizes the true untapped market - parents who want to give their children an educational edge - you will see an explosion in local design and assembly. Just the employment, investment, and empowerment that the developing world needs.

Three years ago, the IT industry was shocked with a radical idea - a "$100 laptop" designed specifically for education in the developing world. Price would be low and yet quality high, through innovative design mixed with low-cost components, and sales would be focused exclusively on the developing world.

This heretical bombast upset the longstanding computer manufacturing tradition to keep adding functions to maintain high prices in the developed world, while ignoring the developing world. The revolution was lead by One Laptop Per Child and its visionary founder, Nicholas Negroponte, and we now have a whole plethora of revolutionaries - from the upstart Asus to the goliath Intel - who are developing "4P Computers" in response to OLPC's iconic XO Laptop.

4P Computing is a new class of appropriate technology - computing power, performance, portability, and price specificity designed for the realities and markets of the developing world.

Now join Wayan Vota, an expert on ICT in the developing world, in an overview of this revolution, the resulting 4PC's, and their impact on the whole information and communication technology industry:

A special thanks to Alexius International for creating this video.

With the plethora of new 4PC's (computer power, performance, price, and portability perfectly suited for the developing world), coming out of Computex this year, you might be wondering who is the current market leader. Personally, I would have to say its Asus with its popular Eee PC line.

Now that may surprise those that know me as a One Laptop Per Child fanboy, but as I told the Economist in its article "The rise of the low-cost laptop":

By raising the very possibility of a $100 laptop, the XO presented the industry with a challenge. Wayan Vota, founder of, an independent website that follows the project, calls the XO a "harbinger of an entirely new class of computers".
As such a harbinger, OLPC took the concept of 4P Computing, first conceptualized by the Simputer, and made it a practical reality with the XO laptop. But in the many missteps we chronicled on OLPC News, it never really commercialized its lead.

Asus has. It took Nicholas Negroponte's basic "$100 laptop" idea, and according to PC Magazine's "Asus Makes Another Eee PC Wave" article, commercialized it beyond anyone's expectations:

"We forecast sales of Eee PCs to double to 10 million units in 2009 with growing demands from both developed and emerging countries," said Jerry Shen, the CEO of Asus. According to a recent report from IDC, Asus shipped around 1.4 million notebooks in the first quarter of 2008 and ranked No.8 in terms of market share.

"In terms of worldwide shipments, it is the first time for a Taiwan IT brand to create such a huge impact in the global market by a single product," said Dickie Chang, the Personal Computing Solutions Analyst for IDC.
Now this doesn't mean that Asus will be the 4PC leader of tomorrow. In fact, the mantle may shift as early as this fall, as other players enter the market. Rumors and reality have everyone from HP to Dell to Toshiba, along with several come-from-nowhere candidates (like Asus, 6 months ago), jumping into the fray.

Only one thing is certain: The XO and its direct competitor, the Classmate PC, are, sadly, not going to be in the lead.

There is much talk about One Laptop Per Child, Nicholas Negroponte idea of a "$100 laptop" empowering education in the developing world. Yet the focus tends to be on the XO laptop itself, not the overall impact of the program on both technology and education.

Rabi Karmacharya
Rabi Karmacharya

For the next Technology Salon on June 3 at 5:30pm, we'll move pass the headlines and into the field with two special guests:

  • Aaron Kaplan, of OLPC Austria, will talk about how he's leveraging wireless mesh networking initiatives to facilitate one laptop per child
  • Rabi Karmacharya of OLE Nepal, will explain how he is developing lasting educational advantages within the Nepalese school system
We'll have an hour of free-flowing conversation and debate around the topic and its impacts, followed by open-ended informal discussions between practitioners, in an intimate and informal setting:

June Technology Salon
Tuesday, June 3 @ 5:30pm
Hosted by RTI International - DC
Main Conference Room
701 13th Street, N.W.
Suite 750 (map)

Now that One Laptop Per Child has brought the 4P Computing vision into reality, and Asus proved its market with the Eee PC, expect to see an amazing plethora of form factors at this year's Computex that ascribe to the power, performance, price, and portability required by the developing world.

Mary Lou Jepsen with her XO laptop

But don't take my learned opinion on the matter, just listen to Mary Lou Jepsen, inventor of the XO laptop's dual mode screen:

So many new machines are coming out about the size of the XO laptop. I've heard that 50 distinct different laptop models will be introduced at Computex (in Taiwan) alone in early June. These machines use screens between 7-10″ diagonals - and have been slapped together rather quickly to capitalize on the momentum first created by One Laptop per Child.
Now she sees the new 4PC entrants being high on price, and they are. The cheapest 4PC laptops that I've seen are still around $450 for the base models. Yet, I must take exception to Jepsen's claim that $450 is double the XO price.

For any retail purchase, where pricing really matters, the XO is at least $300 on eBay and $400+ if purchased through the Give One Get One process. OLPC has set the price floor at $400, for better or worse. But I do have to agree with Mary Lou's overall vision. She and I can both celebrate this:
At the very least, we should have extremely low-power, sunlight readable, high resolution screens in these and other laptops. Pixel Qi is working towards this and we will announce some of our partners soon.
Thanks! It will not be a moment too soon for all of us interested in applicable technology for the developing world.

Mobile phones have established themselves as the communication and networking platform of choice for billions of the world's consumers, most of whom are at the base of the global economic pyramid. Worldwide, mobile phone subscribers outnumber Internet users almost 3 to 1, with much of that gap coming from skyrocketing mobile phone use in Africa, India and China.

Yet new mobile computing platforms, such as the XO laptop from One Laptop Per Child and the Asus Eee PC promise to radically change Internet access with breakthrough portability, performance, power and price. Does "4P Computing" pose a challenge to mobile phone dominance, or does each approach blend into the other?

David Lehr
David Lehr

Please join David Lehr and Wayan Vota in a lively discussion of how this technology dissemination is transforming economic development at the Base of the Pyramid. Active participation with your ideas, opinions, and predictions is strongly encouraged.

About Your Hosts:

Conversation Logistics:
Wednesday, April 305:30pm-7pm
Mercy Corps Conference Room
1730 Rhode Island Ave NW
Suite 809 - 8th Floor
Washington DC - map

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.

The first 4PC entrant

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:

By raising the very possibility of a $100 laptop, the XO presented the industry with a challenge. Wayan Vota, founder of, an independent website that follows the project, calls the XO a "harbinger of an entirely new class of computers".

As such a harbinger, OLPC took the concept of 4P Computing, first conceptualized by the Simputer, and made it a practical reality with the XO laptop. But in the many missteps we chronicled on OLPC News, it never really commercialized its lead. Instead we are witnessing a dramatic change in the low-cost laptop marketplace.

New low-cost laptops, 4P Computers, are popping up daily so I am hoping to reconvene a similar thoughtful discussion next week in San Francisco, but this time, OLPC will be but one option for us to talk about. Now not a day goes by without another announcement of a new laptop in the OLPC space with entrants from the practical Asus Eee PC to the seemingly comical Van Der Led "Jisus laptop".

4P Computing

What is "4P Computing"? Its a simple acronym to describe these new computing devices that are now responding to four market requirements of the developing world, Power, Performance, Portability, Price. 4P Computing, or 4PC's, is a better term than Intel's "netbook" or the industry's UMPC (ultra-mobile PC) and ULPC (ultra low-cost PC), because the term "4P Computing" leaves open the form factor and focuses on what really matters:


In the developing world, grid electricity is rare, and generator power is shockingly expensive. Just listen to Michail Bletsas talk about the Negroponte-financed Cambodian school that inspired OLPC:

The largest operating expense for that school is the diesel fuel for the generator at this point in time. That includes airfare and living expenses for the volunteer teachers that teach there. That includes computers, amortized over 5 years. That includes building and maintaining the school. Getting diesel fuel to power the generator is the biggest ongoing operating expense.
To reach any level of market penetration, computers must be highly energy efficient, mainly to allow them to run off solar or other alternate energy sources, including human power. High energy efficiency also reduces heat waste, negating the need for a fan or other dust openings in the form factor, increasing processor lifespan.

sugar on classmate pc
Measuring Sugar on the Clasmmate


If you look at any cybercafé in the developing world, you'll see people actively engaged with computers, but only using a few applications. Web browsing, including web-email and video watching, listening to MP3's, creating documents, and doing light calculations. These activities do not require high processing resources. In fact, the more progressive Internet cafés are using thin clients sharing a single processor.

What people do want is easy-to-use hardware and software that does not need constant maintenance. Specifically, software that resists viruses, the bane of any beginner user who doesn't understand the real malice lurking online. Oh and software that is essentially free.

Yet, speed is not a major concern when Internet speeds are measured in Kbs, not Mbs. In addition, many cultures measure time in days or even seasons, so microseconds and even seconds are not fretted over. For all those that bemoan Sugar's speed, the usual response I hear overseas is: "What's your hurry?"


This type of computing device must be portable. That means both lightweight and small enough to carry around in a backpack or under a child's arm, and yet rugged enough to survive such portability on a daily basis.

Ruggeness extends from a strong physical design, down to water and dust resistant cases, solid-state memory, and screens that can be read in daylight. Yet weight cannot exceed a few pounds with 2 kilograms the maximum upper limit. At that point both the physical effort to carry the machine and its mass if dropped, make it impractical for developing world environments where dedicated computer rooms or home offices are rare.

There, most activity happens in a communal setting, be it the living room, dining room table, or front porch. Computing will need to bend to this model.

olpc asus eee kids
Happy $400 Asus Eee PC users


Why did Nicholas Negroponte start with the "$100 laptop" moniker? Because people understand price, they respond to a barrier breaking move, and $100 is a nice number to dream about. While $100 is still a dream for OLPC, even the $400 G1G1 reality has set a new price point.

At $400, the growing middle class in Africa, Asia, and South America can buy their first computer, no matter what Annette Jump at Gartner says, $400 may be a month's salary to many, but computers were a month's salary in the US until not too long ago, and that didn't slow adoption. Add in computing as a way to improve children's education, and as any parent will tell you, price becomes secondary.

But price still matters. At $400 or less the developing world makert will expand rapidly and a whole other market emerges. As G1G1 proved first, at least 81,000 people in America and Canada will buy a laptop, if only to tinker with it. Asus has taken that idea and expanded it with the Eee PC to about 500,000 laptops last year with a 3.1 million goal for 2008.

4P Computing Players

Borrowing liberally from the Laptop Mag low-cost laptop cheat sheet, I've made the following comparison of the current 4P Computing players:

4PC NamePowerPerformPortabilityPrice
Asus Eee PCNoYes
Classmate/2Go PCNoYesNoYes
Elonex OneYesYesYesYes
Everex CloudbookYesYesNoYes
HP Mini-Note PCNoYesNoNo
Norhtec GeckoYesYesYesYes
OLPC XO-1YesYesYesYes

No matter if you agree with my new 4PC tag line, I think we can all agree that this ever-expanding list of computing options realizes one of the dreams that both Nicholas Negroponte and I share: showing technology companies that there is both a mission and a market in the developing world.

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