This post is part of a series from the TED 2009 conference held in Long Beach, California from February 4-8th. You can read other posts in the series here, and the TED site will release video from the talk in the coming weeks or months. Because I’m putting these posts together very quickly, I will get things wrong, will misspell names and bungle details. Please feel free to use the comments thread on this post to offer corrections. You may also want to follow the conference via Twitter or through other blogs tagged as TED2009 on Technorati.
Nicholas Negroponte takes the TED stage for the first time in three years. He tells us that a few years ago, everyone thought his idea of a low-cost laptop was silly. He points to the Netbook – lightweight, highly simplified laptops – and tells us this market is now up to 50% of the world’s laptop market. “They didn’t copy the right things from us, but they exist.”
But Netbooks can’t do everything – he throws laptops on stage and encourages us to try that with our netbooks. Or try using them underwater. Or in a dusty African village – “they won’t work.”
“OLPC is a nonprofit. That means we can have partners the normal market cannot have.” Those partners include the kids and their parents. With half a million machines in use, NN is seeing children teaching their parents both to use the computers and to read and write. Teachers see discipline problems go down – their main complaint is that they get too much email from students.
“Commercial markets will go to no end to stop you. It’s sort of a tragedy,” Negroponte tells us. So the future of One Laptop Per Child is to go “from uppercase to lower case”, to “build something that everyone copies.”
“We had to build the first laptop because no one else would do it.” But now, OLPC will release and open source hardware design and invite others to copy it. He predicts that within 3 years, we’ll see 5 to 6 million machines a month, built by companies around the world.
See you in three years, Nicholas.