Will the FUD never end?!

Posted on by Chris Warburton
I just happened upon yet another complete misinterpretation of the OLPC project, this time on the BBC’s Click programme, interviewing Bill Gates. When asked about the “$100 laptop” (a popular name for the Children’s Laptop 1 XO device) Mr Gates dismissed it saying that prices are always coming down, so that in a few years we can make devices for around $150-$200 which don’t sacrifice functionality and use decent screens and decent batteries. Erm…… Perhaps by “decent screens” he meant the sunlight-readable screens showed off earlier on the show. Well guess what? There already is a $150-$200 laptop with just such sunlight-readable, extremely high resolution screens much more advanced than any other laptop in the world, which also use brand new long-life, cool-running, non-explosive lithium ferrous phosphate batteries which I think would count as “decent”, considering the fact that again they are more advanced than any other laptop’s in the world. Wanna know what this amazing laptop is? Visit http://www.laptop.org if you want to find out.

This marketing strategy is insidious. It doesn’t scream about the advantages of one system and the weaknesses of another, instead it inserts misinformation into conversations and discussions, gradually twisting the general opinion about what something actually is, and therefore makes it easier to coerce people into dismissing the adversaries’ systems since they are dismissing a terribly thought-out system with many problems (ie. the one made up by the marketing bullshit to slyly replace the real, decent system people think they are hearing about). If Billy was talking about the Intel Classmate PC then I would probably agree with his statements (although the “in a few years” part could be replaced with “now, if you look at the XO”), but focusing on the hardware (even if it is extraordinarily ingenious and desirable) misses the point completely, and the whole issue of “One Laptop Per Child” and “$100 Laptop” damages the actual mission in my opinion, because it diverts thinking immediately to the implementation instead of the problem, design, etc. This pervasive misinformation spreads itself and can be found all over /. along with many other presumably-knowledgable areas (thus reinforcing the thought that this must be the truth, because geeks say it). The same can be said of Linux and Free Software. Most of our marketing and advocacy has to focus on shattering commonly held misconceptions, rather than actually getting useful knowledge across.