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Negroponte of OLPC on technological bloat

The ongoing discussion about Windows Vista‘s bulkiness reminded me of comments made by Nicholas Negroponte, the head of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative, during his appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. He didn’t mention Windows explicitly, and a lot of this isn’t news to people who follow the industry, but it was interesting, considering who was saying it. Here’s what he said …

The cost of electronics is dropping so fast that if you make electronic devices, the cost of the electronics is going to be 50 percent less in 18 months. If you carry that and keep handing the cost savings to the consumer, you’re going to have products that drop so fast that these are not necessarily the ones that have the kinds of margins and returns that people expect or want.

And so what do they do? They add features. And I say this not meanly or cynically, but the features get added with the hope that 18 months ago whatever features were there previously, there are now sufficiently more features that you’ll at least pay the same price.

This happens all over. Cell phones, laptops, software in general. What happens is an obesity occurs. That obesity turns most things, including laptops, into SUVs, where most of the gasoline is used to move the car and not the person. And that’s what happened with the laptops.

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OLPC, Microsoft, Windows Vista

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