Thursday, October 20, 2005

Die Redmond Scum, Die!

Microsoft just passed it's 30th Anniversary. Now that I've soiled my blog forever by linking to the MicroBorg, let me pass on the good news - a number of developing countries are trying to bridge the digital divide by providing cheap computers to their citizens. Problem: Windows doesn't come cheap. Solution: Linux, baby!
When the government of Thailands Peoples PC initiative began selling a subsidized Linux-only PC aimed at the masses, Microsoft dropped the price of its Windows/Office package in the country 85% from nearly US$600 to $37. However, most first-time PC users in Thailand found that the free Linux Thai Language Edition was easier to use than Windows, and the dramatic price cuts were not enough to allow Microsoft to retain a majority share of the market. Moreover, local Linux-only PC manufacturer Laser Computer replaced HP as Thailand's top PC seller...
There no part of that I didn't love. That paragraph comes from an really interesting report titled "Technology Innovations At The Edge" (warning - PDF) about how developing countries are using cheap, low-end technology to meet their needs - but also, how these low-end technologies also percolate back in to the developed world. Wind-up radios are just one example of this.

I think we tend to have a well-meaning but somewhat conceited notion that we in the west can "save" the poor of the world. While there's undoubtedly a lot we can do, and even more that we should just stop doing, we have to remember that, even among some of the poorest nations of the world, they retain the capacity to save themselves. Needless to say, this goal is incompatible with the far-more-important goal of making shameless amounts of money for major corporations.

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