Gapingvoid tweeted this earlier this morning.
Coming from Hugh, that’s saying something. Even if he has “retired” to Alpine.
So I went and took a look at the story: The Techcrunch Web Tablet project. Which seems to look like this:
Because I think it’s the right way to go. We have to keep experimenting with affordable low-power simple-spec sensible-form-factor open portable computing devices, we have to find the ten thousand ways that do not work in order to find the one that does.
A project like this, when centred around a participative architecture and community, reduces the cost of failure, reduces the cost of the ten thousand ways that do not work.
Ubiquitous and affordable and usable connectivity is an imperative for everyone, even more so for the five-sixths of the world that have none of it as yet. On the basis of “a dollar of trade is worth a hundred times a dollar of aid” principle, we should not underestimate the value of providing such power to people, power that will translate itself into affordable food, clothing and shelter, power that will translate itself into health, education and welfare.
Human beings are incredibly creative, incredibly adaptive and are cram-full of potential. Initiatives like this may well help release that potential.
In order to release that potential, we have to change how we think. We have to think of these tablets as mobile phones with the right form factor and functionality, not as computers with the right price and operating systems. For some strange reason, most people are comfortable with the idea that someone in darkest Africa or rural India or China needs a phone; yet the same people look puzzled when you suggest they could do with compute power and connectivity. Whatever. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck….
The headline, by the way, is taken from one of the four hundred odd comments that have been made on the post so far. The commenter was “a bit sceptical” about the chances of TCIT “actually pulling this off” and listed a series of issues, like “no opensource hardware project has really taken off” and “crowdsourcing doesn’t work that well”. And then he ended with “You’re a blog”.
With a little bit of luck and a following wind, we will see a decent open multisided platform approach here, as a result of which we will see what we have failed to see so far: a global opensource project, hardware and software, with local extensions and frills made by a dispersed long-tail community around a common and reusable core. Language and script support based on people everywhere rather than profitable conurbations; applications that have the ability to make that little difference to people’s lives; no sign of lock-in anywhere.
Let’s find that one way that works.