November 21, 2007

Holiday Wish

With the Holidays around the corner, many news outlets have already compiled lists of best gadgets and revolutionary devices, that have, or will, revolutionize everything and more. The iPhone has certainly been a source of hype and praise (and criticism). I do not have an iPhone, and I am unlikely to get one, because as cool as it is, I have no need for it. Here is what I really want in a portable, personal device:
  • A screen that is readable, not too large, not too small
  • A usable keyboard, one that does not require me to use my thumbs and/or press multiple times to get the letter I want
  • Energy consumption and battery power that allow me to go unplugged for, say, a whole day
  • Networking capabilities that allow me to remain connected no matter what, and does not subject me to the tyranny of cell phone companies or local IT policies
  • An interface that does not get in the way of what I want to do (and if possible designed so that a kid could pick it up and go, kind of like a good video game...)
  • Open source hardware and software, so no commercial interest stands in the way of usability and innovation
  • Fun and good looking design (but with no sacrifice to usability)
  • Can play music, videos, games...
Not uncorrelated, here is what I do NOT want to see on a portable, personal device:
  • Windows (of any kind): they are not useful for most personal tasks!
  • Office power-suites: only the simple functionalities I will use everyday.
  • Backwards compatibility with principles and protocols that were invented in a different and irrelevant context
  • "Features" that commercial interests decide I absolutely need (and pay for)
In summary, something efficient, cheap, fresh and fun. So it turns out that this is pretty much the specs for the device One Laptop Per Child thinks will help them "provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves." Well, that might very well work for us too... Because if I sincerely hope that the kids in developing countries enjoy the experience, it is pretty clear to me that this gadget is going to appeal to the kid in many of us over here (in fact, perhaps more in Cambridge, MA than anywhere else in the world). And if it works, it has the potential to spark a real revolution. Think about it: freedom from all arbitrary legacy and commercial interests, for significantly less money than an iPhone! I don't know if it was planned that way from the start, but in retrospect, apart from altruism and humanitarianism, there is pure strategic genius in arguments such as "we're designing for kids in developing countries who cannot afford all the big commercial stuff anyways," and "big companies could not be interested because there is no real big market there." They give true license for aggressive innovation. So I put in my order through the Give One Get One program. I hope the XO works, and I look forward to getting mine!
And yes, my picture of the day is of the XO laptop (from the OLPC web site).Today's stair number: 2

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