093. Netbook Mania
"The PC industry is poised to sell tens of millions of small, energy-efficient Internet-centric devices. Curiously, some of the biggest companies in the business consider this bad news."—NYT 7/21/08
The Windows team was plugging away on Windows 7. The outside world was still mired in the Vista doldrums. Then in the summer of 2007 there was a wakeup call in the announcement and shipment of a new type of computer from upstart Asus, called a Netbook, a tiny laptop running Linux and a new chip from Intel. Would that combination prove to be a competitive threat or a huge opportunity for a PC world fresh off the launch of the iPhone?
When a project like Longhorn drags on, the business is going to miss important trends. The biggest trend in computing in 2005-06 was expanding the PC to the rest of the world, something Microsoft and others called “the next billion” as the existing computing model reached approximately one billion of the world’s 6.5 billion people.
To outfit the next billion, many believed a new type of computer was needed. They were right. Many places where we would have liked to bring computers to the next billion lacked reliable electricity, air conditioning or heating, constant high-speed internet connectivity, and often had dusty environments as in Africa and much of Asia where I happened to have some of experience.
At the MIT Media Lab, Nicholas Negroponte, the lab’s founder, spearheaded a project called One Laptop Per Child, OLPC, that launched at the Davos forum in 2005. The rest of the world would come to know this as the “$100 laptop” at a time when most laptops cost about $1000 or more.