Bill Gates' crude swipe at the MIT Media Lab's "OLPC" -- what I call The Little Green Laptop -- demonstrates how out of it the Chairman of Microsoft is. Between flights to Davos and Bridge rounds with his buddy, The Sage of Omaha, he's not reading the news or paying attention to developments in his field.
The comments are bush-league, uncouth, unobjective and reflect poorly on someone positioning himself as a global philanthropic authority.
"...geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you're not sitting there cranking the thing while you're trying to type."
Microsoft's mee-too effort is six times the cost of the OLPC, and Gates' comment also that the OLPC is for "shared use" is incorrect and an underhanded deprecation of the obvious goals of the Media Lab's project, a project called "One Laptop Per Child."
Moreover, Gates noted cynically that hardware is only a small part of the total cost of a PC...as if that justifies the higher cost of Microsoft's product. The OLPC will run Linux, which is largely self-supported in the local communities, and the network connectivity costs will be transparent since the OLPC will run in ad hoc mode -- the machines will use internal wifi cards to connect to each other in a chain to the inexpensive local government-funded access points. Gates' "high additional costs" that are supposed to take the pressure off Microsoft's high costs are illusory in the present, the relevant, context -- as usual. Gates should save these knowing irrelevancies -- misdirections -- for his paid henchmen like Jack Abramoff or Alan Yates in the trenches.
Gates would like to be the authority on Third-World computing, but his comments highlight only his mental isolation, his ignorance of global economic fundamentals, his immodest self-regard, his modest thought and his low opinion of the demands of serving information, computing services & educational infrastructure in developing nations. Bill Gates' derision of the OLPC should tell you everything you need to know about the sincerity of his own efforts in either computing or philanthropy to help people in poor and under-developed areas.
The only PR strategy for Gates is magnanimous praise for the OLPC and congratulations for Nick Negroponte and for Kofi Annan, its creator & its evangelist. Then walk away.
Bill Gates cannot be an effective or believable philanthropist or government advisor without still more finishing school...or handlers who are more wide-awake.