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I have been skeptical about both OLPC and the netbooks (which I think are nothing but really really cheap laptops) because I believe that phones — smart or not — are the present and future of technology. That reality is brought into sharp focus every single […]

I have been skeptical about both OLPC and the netbooks (which I think are nothing but really really cheap laptops) because I believe that phones — smart or not — are the present and future of technology. That reality is brought into sharp focus every single time I visit India, which now has close to 400 million mobile connections. China, Brazil, Russia… mobile phone sales, despite the slump, are not going to slump. Bruce Sterling, in his speech at Webstock 09 in New Zealand made this point rather bluntly.

All the planet’s poor kids had to have desktop machines. With fiber optic. Sure! You go to Bombay, Shanghai, Lagos even, you’re like “hey kid, how about this OLPC so you can level the playing field with the South Bronx and East Los Angeles?” And he’s like “Do I have to? I’ve already got three Nokias.” The teacher is slapping the cellphone out of his hand because he’s acing the tests by sneaking in SMS traffic. “Half the planet has never made a phone call.” Boy, that’s a shame — especially when pirates in Somalia are making satellite calls off stolen supertankers. The poorest people in the world love cellphones. They’re spreading so fast they make PCs look like turtles.

Actually you should read Bruce’s post over on Wired.com, because it makes the entire Web 2.0 ecosystem look into a trick mirror — with amusing results. (Photo via Flickr by Dipankar Dutta)

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By Om Malik

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  1. I agree.. mobile phones penetration in India has been very rapid as compared to that of computers. Everyone, literally everyone has a cellphone ther days in India.

  2. I will agree to this. I have seen people selling little stuff and talking on phone to ask rates from their family members who are selling other things at other places in the same market.

    Sometimes, they surprise you by bringing out a new set that you have not seen even. This sometimes is so hilarious and astonishing as how and when they get time to buy those sets.

    Cell phones in India is like a match-box…even if you are non-smoker, you surely have these cells.

  3. Netbook Fan Monday, March 2, 2009

    I have to say I was skeptical at first, but now I’m a fan of the netbooks. Particularly for travel, it’s great to be able to toss a very lightweight netbook in the travel bag and not be lugging around a standard laptop. Very handy at conferences and meetings where you want to take notes for an extended period of time and there is no table to place a laptop on.

    The netbook definitely has a future, especially as battery life goes up and the graphics get a bit better in future models.

    1. @Netbook Fan

      I am not surprised that you are loving netbooks – you are accustomed to using laptops and now finally the laptop is portable and more usable for folks who are laptop addicts. I think for folks who are going straight to mobiles, netbooks seems like a step back.

  4. Om,

    you should check out what VNL is doing at http://www.vnl.in

    They launched zero-opex WorldGSM Base Station at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month.

  5. Netbooks *are* “nothing but really really cheap laptops”. That’s what’s so great about them. I much prefer these little laptops costing $300 instead of >$1K like they used to. :)

    With the ever-increasing transistor density of microprocessors and the recent improvements in power consumption, phones probably are destined to be the standard unit of personal computing.

    1. @simmons

      There is absolutely nothing in these being really cheap laptops. Too bad they are going to destroy the PC industry margins further. Still it is all good for the consumer. It is just same old wine in really small bottle :-)

  6. Qasim Virjee Monday, March 2, 2009

    Om,

    The Wired.com link is missing in this post, tried searching Bruce’s (Sterling right?) posts to find it but couldn’t…

    q./

  7. Qasim Virjee Monday, March 2, 2009

    OOPS – Looks like you got it right in the first hyperlink, the one in the last paragraph is missing it though…

    q./

  8. Is there any connection b/w Mobile phones and Computing devices such as netbooks or whatever?? atleast I dont understand …lets put the future technology away than both of these technologies are way different to each other and coming to poor people do they really need computing devices (a joke), when they hardly seen the school why they prefer the later ones.

  9. replace laptop screens Monday, March 2, 2009

    First time I’ve heard about netbooks. I will have to do some research, it sounds like it could be the way to go.

  10. Bruce Sterling on The Cloud and the Transition Web. | stuart henshall Monday, March 2, 2009

    [...] Gigaom Bruce Sterling talking in New Zealand about “The cloud as a platform” and “The [...]

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