iPhone or OLPC? Which will have a greater impact?

By | January 14, 2007

This week saw two major technology announcements both of which have potentially large implications for users world wide. The first was the iPhone launched by Apple at MacWorld. The second was the “One Laptop Per Child”, a project that promises to “create(sic) expressly for the world’s poorest children living in its most remote environments.”
iPhone Image


OLPC image

You can visit the websites to explore the projects yourself. Both of them are INTERESTING!

The iPhone could, in fact, inspire a whole generation of users who would love the convenience and power of the phone in dealing with calls, internet, ipod and pc style functions. There is, however, a serious concern on the kinds of limitations that Steve Jobs is thinking about:

“We define everything that is on the phone,” he said. “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.”

As a result, we can consider that this will be a fairly closed system, despite being based on OSX. Now, as a PC user this seems quite a limitation:you won’t be able to run applications that Steve doesn’t want you to. The closed system will, in the long term, limit the expansion of the system.

On the other hand, there is the OLPC. This is potentially a huge development, both for the children in the developing world and, I believe, for the developed world. Its effects will be far reaching for the developing world by empowering a generation of kids who will be able to learn the ins and outs of both computing and the Internet.

However, the OLPC represents a number of positive points for the developed world: it will spur development of a whole new generation of information devices that will bring the Internet world to people and places that have now only been on the fringes. Educationally, the OLPC will allow schools to have units for every child in the school, as well.

In addition, since it’s open architecture, I think that the OLPC will be the device for a generation, if not in its first incarnation, in its second or third. It has very low power consumption, very light and strong construction, open design, USB ports for extensions, and networking facilities, both formal and informal.