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January 1, 2007

Consumer Electronics Show Spoiler Alert

Posted by David Hunter at 11:14 PM ET.

The Consumer Electronics Show is coming up in Las Vegas on Jan. 8-11 and Rob Enderle provides a spoiler on multiple levels in The Battle for the Digital Home: Does Apple or Microsoft win?:

In the battle for the “Digital home,” the right answer (unless something changes) might be neither. I’ve just finished a review of the top contenders for awards at CES, and while I can’t divulge the winner (largely because I have no idea who it is), I can say that neither Microsoft’s nor Apple’s solutions came particularly close. Granted in Apple’s case that was largely because they don’t actually attend CES and seem to believe —with some justification — that they don’t have to. Microsoft seems to think they can continue to blame their partners for failures in this space, but right or wrong, failures are exactly that; at some point, I’ll bet either Bill Gates or Microsoft’s board will say, “Enough is enough” and step in.

Ouch! The rest of the article is about some smaller companies who may actually have some inspired ideas as to what the “Digital Home” might be, but if we can’t count on the big players for anything earthshaking, I expect that, like last year, we can at least count on them for something mirth making (e.g. [1], [2]).

As long as I’m dishing out brickbats, I can’t help but mention an electronic gadget that won’t be at CES, but from the description should be at Toy Fair. That’s the $150 One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) personal computer that got a puff piece over the weekend from the AP’s Brian Bergstein for among other things, its novel user interface:

When the student opts to view the entire “neighborhood” — the XO’s preferred term instead of “desktop” — other stick figures in different colors might appear on the screen. Those indicate schoolmates who are nearby, as detected by the computers’ built-in wireless networking capability.

Moving the PC’s cursor over the classmates’ icons will pull up their names or photos. With further clicks the students can chat with each other or collaborate on things — an art project, say, or a music program on the computer, which has built-in speakers.

The design partly reflects a clever attempt to get the most from the machine’s limited horsepower.

But the main design motive was the project’s goal of stimulating education better than previous computer endeavors have. Nicholas Negroponte, who launched the project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab two years ago before spinning One Laptop into a separate nonprofit, said he deliberately wanted to avoid giving children computers they might someday use in an office.

“In fact, one of the saddest but most common conditions in elementary school computer labs (when they exist in the developing world), is the children are being trained to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint,” Negroponte wrote in an e-mail interview. “I consider that criminal, because children should be making things, communicating, exploring, sharing, not running office automation tools.”

It’s bad enough that in the developed world the kids are given school computers as pacifiers instead of being taught to read, write, and do arithmetic; but now Mr. Negroponte wants to pass off this escapee from a toy store as an educational innovation to the Third World. The children of both worlds would be better off with books and teachers.

Filed under Apple, CES06, CES07, Conferences, Coopetition, Microsoft

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One Response to “Consumer Electronics Show Spoiler Alert”

  1. Microsoft to offer Windows for OLPC | Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] As I have observed previously, the OLPC initiative (like most "computers in education" projects) reminds me of the old saw about "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail," but regardless of any actual utility of the project, Microsoft has bought themselves some good PR for some unspecified development expense.   Filed under General Business, Public Relations, Microsoft   [Permalink] [TrackBack] [...]

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