Is the $100 laptop the end for Moore's Law?

Here we are, extolling the virtues of laptops such as the pricey Sony Vaio TZ, when for most users the US$100 XO would be just as effective.

The One Laptop Per Child organisation's XO computer, aka the $100 laptop, has just started mass production. And while I am happy that thousands of underprivileged African children will reap the benefits of a PC and the Internet, we can't help but feel a little jealous -- and even embarrassed.

Here we are, extolling the virtues of laptops such as the AU$4600 Sony Vaio TZ, when for most users the US$100 XO would be just as effective. Sure, it doesn't have a premium badge on the lid, and its 433MHz AMD CPU won't win any speed records, but it'll let you surf the Web, send email, enjoy audio and video, and even, as some Nigerian children have discovered, allow you to browse for porn.

Think about your own PC usage -- does it honestly include anything more demanding than Facebook stalking, laughing at idiots on YouTube or hitting the digg button underneath the latest lolcat? Can you justify spending AU$4600 when a machine costing AU$230 will do exactly the same thing? I think the world can learn a lot from the XO, the ClassMate PC and its ilk. These devices could change the computing world as we know it. And despite its makers saying it's exclusive to the developing world, the XO absolutely should be brought to the West.

Since 1965, the tech world has obsessed about keeping pace with Moore's Law -- an empirical observation that computing performance will double every 24 months. Concurrently, consumers have lusted after the latest and greatest computing hardware, encouraged in part by newer, fatter, ever more demanding operating systems and applications.

Moore's law is great for making tech faster, and for making slower, existing tech cheaper, but when consumers realise their personal lust for faster hardware makes almost zero financial sense, and hurts the environment with greater demands for power, will they start to demand cheaper, more efficient 'third-world' computers that are just as effective?

We think so. The amount of interest generated by the XO, the ClassMate PC, and more recently the AU$460 Asus Eee PC is phenomenal. Most people in our office are astounded by their low price and relatively high functionality, and are finding it difficult to justify buying anything else. If you want to play the latest games, well, the latest games consoles, while power-hogs, are relatively cheap and graphically very impressive.

It's almost poetic that the poorest nations in the world have the potential to push the Western tech industry in a new direction. Don't get us wrong -- we love fast, outlandish laptops and PCs as much as the next blog, but we'd be idiots not to show you the alternative. And what a fantastic alternative it is. We predict some very interesting, and money-saving times ahead.

- Posted By Rory Reid from