Can ultracheap PCs be used for voting systems

From: Arthur Keller <voting_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Wed May 03 2006 - 07:10:52 CDT

Posted on Tue, May. 02, 2006

Tech rivals target the world's poor
By Dean Takahashi
Mercury News
Two of Silicon Valley's biggest technology rivals
will promote initiatives this week to grow their
global business by providing low-cost computers
to developing countries.
Intel is announcing it will spend $1 billion to
speed up the marketing of inexpensive computers
to such emerging markets as such as India, China
and Mexico. Its rival, Advanced Micro Devices, is
already making bare-bones computers that cost
$250 or less.
While tech companies agree about the importance
of bringing technology to the world's poor, they
differ about the best way to do it. But they are
joining top executives from Microsoft and Dell
this week at a conference in Austin, Texas, to
discuss campaigns to extend computer access to
the world's low-income regions.
``Decades of providing technology in growing
volume and at decreasing costs have driven great
gains for developing nations, communities and
people worldwide, but there is still much to
do,'' said Intel CEO Paul Otellini in a statement
about the company's ``World Ahead'' program.
Many tech companies have marketed conventional
PCs that failed in the emerging markets. With
that in mind, Intel plans a broader approach:
customizing PCs for specific world regions,
making high-speed wireless Internet connections
available to everyone, and educating teachers on
how to teach with computers. Intel also has a new
design for a classroom computer, costing about
$450, that will make its debut next year.
Bill Calder, a spokesman for Santa Clara-based
Intel, said, ``This is not just a charitable
thing. It makes good business sense.''
But philanthropic aims can also pose risks for business strategies.
``The tough problem is that a lot of the
companies want to hit the low prices for the
emerging markets, but they don't want to
cannibalize sales of the high-priced machines for
developed countries,'' said Rob Enderle, an
analyst at the Enderle Group in San Jose. ``The
truth is, there are two markets in each country.
There are the affluent people who will buy the
full-fledged computer, and those in rural areas
who need the cheapest possible machine.''
The debate over how to best reach developing
countries also plays out in the efforts of
Silicon Valley chip makers Intel and AMD. Intel
backs the view that the poor should have access
to fully functional computers that might cost
slightly more but give them rich experiences on
par with everyone else. That aim aligns with the
business aims of companies promoting both Windows
software and Intel's microprocessors.
AMD, by contrast, has focused on even cheaper
computers and launched an effort it calls 50x15
to get 50 percent of the world's population using
computers by the year 2015. AMD has already
introduced computers priced at less than $300 --
or subsidized through monthly subscription fees
-- and run only a subset of Windows software.
AMD chips
AMD is also putting its chips into the $100
laptops being developed for the world's
low-income children by a non-profit organization
started by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has criticized the
$100 laptops for depriving the poor of some
important computer functions. The laptops run the
low-cost, open-source Linux operating system,
which offers some competition for Microsoft's
But Negroponte has said a $100 laptop could do
much the same things as a $1,000 laptop, except
store masses of data.
The $100 machine has a 366-megahertz AMD
microprocessor with 128 megabytes of main memory.
For permanent storage, it has 500 megabytes of
flash memory chips instead of a hard disk drive.
It can connect to the Internet through wireless
broadband radios and tap alternative power
sources such as hand-cranked generators.
Negroponte's group has raised $24 million and
expects governments to issue them to children in
schools starting at the end of this year or the
beginning of 2007. Sponsors include such
luminaries as computer pioneer Alan Kay as well
as companies such as Google and AMD.
To make its cheapest computers possible, AMD uses
the low-cost Geode GX microprocessor, a business
it bought from National Semiconductor.
The so-called Personal Internet Communicators,
which cost $250 with a monitor, are selling via
telephone and cable TV operators in countries
such as China, Mexico, Brazil, the Caribbean and
Billy Edwards, chief innovation officer at AMD,
says the company has learned lessons. The PIC
failed in the United States, where Radio Shack
tried selling it last fall, in part because it
was hard to communicate to consumers just what it
was appropriate for.
But with 18 months of sales behind it, AMD
continues with its efforts, Edwards says. On its
Web site, AMD keeps a running count of the
percentage of the world's 6.5 billion people who
have access to the Internet. It now stands at
15.75 percent, or just over 1 billion people.
There have been a few other retreats.
Hewlett-Packard wound down an e-inclusion effort
in emerging markets last year, while PMC-Sierra
shelved a plan to sell chips for non-Windows
computers in China.
Intel's efforts
But Intel has pushed ahead and established
research centers in four countries to design
computers that meet their needs. It launched a
low-cost PC last month in conjunction with
Telefonos de Mexico. It unveiled a cheap
``community PC'' in India and is working on
similar projects with the governments of Egypt,
Brazil, Ghana and Nigeria.
In the next two years, Intel plans to launch six
more computers for regional markets around the
``The thesis here is you can do good things and
do good business,'' AMD's Edwards said.

Contact Dean Takahashi at or (408) 920-5739.

2006 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424

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