I'm typing this story from a latop that costs somewhere north of $1500. And that's just for the hardware. By the time you pay the Windows and Office tax, it's probably closer to $2,000. (Ok, I know David Axmark is on me to use OpenOffice more and I probably should do that.) To me, it's a minor inconvenience to have to pay for Microsoft Office just because everyone else uses it and it's one less hassle in terms of converting documents. But it's not life or death for me. But for millions of kids in Cambodia and other third world countries, you could well make the argument.
Nicholas Negroponte, the founding chairman of MIT's prestigious Media Lab, has spearheaded an effort to deliver a $100 laptop computer that could help drive education and economic development in third world countries. Not surprisingly, the laptop foregoes expensive hardware and software in favor of more basic functionality based on open source software. Negroponte's not-for-profit group, One Laptop Per Child, is in discussions with governments from Brazil, China, Thailand, Egypt and South Africa to distribute up to 15 million test systems.
There are still a few issues to work out on the hardware side, but the plan is rapidly building steam. Kudos to AMD for helping design this laptop and also to Google and Red Hat for stepping up to the plate.