Archive for February 29th, 2008

£99 laptop could hatch the Linux generation

February 29, 2008

PC manufacturer Elonex is launching ONE, an ultra-portable laptop, at this week’s Education Show at the NEC. The machine provides a 7″ LCD screen, wireless Internet access and 1GB on-board solid state memory (there is no hard disc to save on costs). It runs Linux with what looks like OpenOffice for word processing and is being aimed at the education market. It costs just £99.

This product launch follows hot on the heels of growing interest in the ASUS Eee PC which is slightly more costly at around £200 but also runs Linux. If these low-cost products take off in the early-years education market then we could see a new generation of young adults who have been weaned on open source and Linux.

This might be considered another brick in the wall to mainstream PC manufacturers and Microsoft for two reasons.

Firstly, as my old college chum Martin Waller pointed out to me, this new generation of Linux/OpenOffice aficionados would naturally want to transfer their skills and technologies into the workplace. This worked for a now forgotten computer company called DEC (aka Digital Equipment) in the 1970s. A generation of engineering and computer science graduates entered the workplace after having used the company’s PDP/11 machine in their college years and started demanding to have access to similar, easy-to-use, mini-computers at work. This process helped speed the demise of the centralised mainframe computer.

Secondly, for Microsoft to have any hope of being incorporated in to these kinds of super-cheap, commodity products then they will have to drop the licence fee for Windows and Office. This is further reinforced in the education world by the UK’s school technology advice agency’s (BECTA) recent reservations about Microsoft’s Office 2007 software, and public exhortations for schools to make more use of free-to-use products.

The Jesuits are supposed to have said: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man”. This early adoption technique may be about to take off in the world of operating systems.