Saturday, November 1, 2008

One iPhone per Child OIPC

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Satirical off shoot from the OLPC (one laptop per child). Sorry could not resist the connection. Thursday October 30th 2008 PCWorld posted an article stating “Lower-income U.S. consumers are Flocking to Apple’s iPhone”.

The article also states that “smartphones are changing from a luxury to a necessity, according to research company ComScore Mobile.”

This has got my dander up since when is an over amped cellular phone that can play games, music, and watch videos over the internet become a necessity? I can understand the smartphone being a valuable business tool (I use one for contacts and schedules).

But come on a necessity to lower income folks. The article posts statistics of purchases grew fastest among people with annual household incomes between $25k and $50K with an 48% growth rate in that group. Now the phone cost $199 plus a $70 monthly charge from ATT with a family of 4 and say 3 of those 4 need a cell phone for one reason or another well that’s a lot of cash if you ask me per year.

With the economy in a “mild” down turn (now thats funny!) and Reuters posting “One in Five homeowners with mortgages under water”

Friday October 31st 2008 “About 7.63 million properties, or 18 percent, had negative equity in September, and another 2.1 million will follow if home prices fall another 5 percent”

So here is the crux, Question for all of you…. Is the iPhone really a necessity? With all of the hoopla with economic issues and the Government providing a 750 billion dollar bailout program?

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Hoopla? Calm down and think about it. The necessity is communication - that's what society is all about, ditto education. The iPhone is, for the moment, the communication utility here that is most like the Japanese keitai / cellphone. Citizens of the world are catching on; and the vendors are coming up behind. Android G1 next, a room full of clones after that. And yes, the OLPC will be the one OiPC, and the cost will be $50, then $25. For fun, check out the Nintendo DSi.

I get the reaction - Apple makes pro-level devices at a premium cost. But the iPhone fills a niche that I think nobody else even saw. Information at your fingertips isn't just a business need any more.

At a time when the "netbooks" - low-cost, low-power internet-browsing machines - are becoming more popular, the iPhone swoops in at a lower price point with a better user experience.

In fact, let's compare the one-laptop-per-child's goals (see, of course keeping in mind that the iPhone is heavily subsidized by AT&T, of course, but here goes:

1. Child ownership. The iPhone meets the $199 price point (with AT&T subsidies, of course). OLPC's goal is that the laptop be available to the child at all times. iPhone fits that bill perfectly.

2. Low ages. Means easy user interface/user experience with literacy not required. iPhone has a brilliant UI and UX. Kids don't even need to learn how to type to get started. Its not even point-and-click - its pinch, drag, and touch. A 2-year-old could play with the iPhone.

3. Saturation. The iPhone uses 3G in addition to wifi, allowing internet access in less internet-saturated markets. The iPhone is also pretty shareable - pass one around a class, town meeting, etc. I see them being passed around in the bar all the time, who does that with their laptop?

4. Connection. 3G, EDGE, and WiFi in one device. Plus GPS.

5. Free and open source. Ok, epic fail on this one, but the iPhone API is very nice to use, and despite popular opinion apps can be distributed among a limited number of phones w/o going through Apple's app store. For introducing kids to the "guts" of software, OS X wins over Linux any day.

The one laptop per child is a grand effort, but these small, all-in-one communication devices have the potential to really change the fate of not only the poor in developing countries, but could vastly improve the education and communication in the more developed countries.

In fact, once someone gets a good version of the open-source Android modified and on a sub-$200 device, it may succeed where OLPC has so far failed.

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