The first $100 laptops haven’t even been shipped yet and already Bill Gates thinks he has a better solution. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week Gates suggested that a better solution would be cheap smartphones that could double as computers. He suggested a phone that could be plugged into a TV and connected to a keyboard for full computer performance. Not surprisingly, the phone in his vision would run on a Windows platform.
The suggestion is an intriguing one, but it opens some questions. Perhaps the biggest feature of the idea is that people would have a phone and a computer. Mobile phones are becoming very popular in developing countries because land lines don’t exist in many places. The challenges, though, are all about infrastructure. One advantage of the $100 laptop is that it is powered by a hand crank. Many of the targeted users don’t have electricity, so charging a smartphone becomes a big issue. The opportunity to connect to a TV is meaningless as well if people have no TV and nothing to plug it into. A cellular network would also be required. The $100 laptop uses a mesh network, so access shouldn’t be an issue in many places. Access and the cost of that access could be an issue.
You can guarantee that this isn’t the last we hear of Gates’ idea. It will be interesting to hear it fleshed out and to see what he has in mind. He could pretty much buy one for everyone in the world if he wanted to.