Friday, February 29, 2008

PalmPilot Jr

Having received my XO's developer key, I immediately upgraded the operating system to build number "Joyride 1638", using one of those "USB-based memory sticks". The large PDA/small laptop now appears to switch to some form of low-power mode whenever the lid is closed, when in "Reader mode" and in the middle of yum-based downloads. A tad too aggressive, if you ask me, but that's life when installing unstable software. It may have had something to do with having the Reader activity opened at the same time, but in any case, I don't think suspending is necessary when the laptop is plugged in. Maybe it would be OK after a much longer timeout, say 10 minutes.

Other than that, the new power management features (coming from build 653 -- which I think had absolutely none, except maybe for the "blank screen" screensaver -- these features are totally new) are really spiffy, and allowed me to go from a full charge this morning and still be going after a ride on the bus, followed by a full day of work (where it spent most of that time closed up). Hmmm... Maybe I didn't explain that correctly, so I'll switch to rough pseudo-code:

laptop.powerMode = PowerMode.OnBattery; = RadioMode.Off;
me.use ( laptop, 30 /* minutes */ );
laptop.powerMode = PowerMode.Suspend;
Thread.sleep ( 1000 * 60 * 60 * 8 /* 8 hours in milliseconds */ );
laptop.powerMode = PowerMode.OnBattery;
me.use ( laptop, 30 /* minutes */ );
// because I didn't have to shutdown and boot up the laptop again
me.mood = Mood.Happy;

...there. I swear those "I write code" t-shirts were invented for me.

Anyway, there are still a few quirks, but the software is definitely getting there, which brings me to the whole point of this post: the XO should [eventually] be sold around the world. I'm thinking it could be ready and in all the stores where laptops and/or educational toys are normally sold (such as Walmart, Toys 'R' Us, ThinkGeek,, Future Shop, Best Buy, Fry's Electronics, Radio Shack, etc.) by next Christmas.

This form of distribution could expand their user base in a way that's not too dissimilar to the G1G1 program, minus the logistics nightmares associated with selling and shipping 80 000 units individually. This way, they ship say, 250 000 units in chunks of 10 or 20 thousand to a few retailers with established distribution channels and the foundation can then focus their efforts on what they do best (designing and building the laptop, marketing to governments of poor countries, etc.), instead of trying to also be a mass-distributor.

Of course, this assumes that the sale of XOs at retail would bring enough revenue to not only make this affordable to the foundation, but also to make money. I don't think they could pitch it for $400 (as in the G1G1 campaign) with a straight face (some Acer laptops are available now for $600), but they could probably do it for less than $200. At that price, they are starting to compete with other educational toys, as well as traditional PDAs that also come with a keyboard, word processing software, a web browser and an extended battery life.

I'm totally serious about this: it could be the source of volume they have been after to bring the price of the units down, not to mention the associated network effects. Think of it this way: as a parent, would you rather get your child an expensive, fragile computer made for adults or an inexpensive, rugged computer made for kids? ("hand-me-down clunkers" and sources of free tech support notwithstanding) How many people missed out due to the G1G1 campaign's short lifespan or high barrier of entry (i.e. you must create a PayPal account - even though the error message only said your credit card was not valid - and then have it authorized for large amounts - which means having it linked to a bank account - on top of the amateur-looking website and the uncertainty of shipping dates, etc.)?

Let's hope they read my blog and credit me after the associated success boom from implementing my master plan. You're welcome. :)

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