When Doing Good Is Bad

Nicholas Negroponte thought he was doing the world some good when he and his team at the MIT Media Lab designed a $100 hand-crank-driven laptop for the third world. But Microsoft has publicly doubted these plans -- partly on technical merits but probably more so on the grounds that the millions of proposed machines won’t be running Windows. So Microsoft, which is not nearly as far along the development path, has its own idea. You take your cell phone (and what bushman worth his salt doesn’t already carry a Motorola i830?), attach a keyboard, and then plug this hodgepodge into a TV (and what bushman worth his salt doesn’t already own a Sony Trinitron?). This way, the cell phone provides the fundamental Internet access (never mind that cell phone Internet access in developed countries is still largely a pipe dream). Negroponte sees meshes where a single 'Net connection can be shared by a thousand or so laptops.

Which approach do you think makes more sense? Let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Break the Law, Pay With Software
Usually when someone breaks the law, they pay with jail time or real money. When Microsoft broke the law in Minnesota, it was ordered to pay its debt with software it already owns. Under terms of a 2004 antitrust settlement, Microsoft has to give out some $55 million in vouchers to low-income students. Unfortunately for Microsoft, not all the money will be used to buy back Microsoft software titles -- the vouchers are also good for non-Microsoft hardware and software.

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Amazon Copying Google?
Google is used to competitors copying its success, but to have someone copy its failure is a whole new wrinkle. That’s what happened when Amazon stock dropped almost 10 percent just days after Google lost $20 billion in market capitalization in one day. While Amazon’s sales are up, they just aren’t up enough for Wall Street’s tastes. And profits have been squeezed by initiatives like free shipping aimed at recruiting and keeping customers. I think over the long term, Amazon will grow -- it already has huge brand recognition (it's no picnic convincing billions of people to think of books whenever they hear the name of a South American river).

Craigslist To Charge
I wonder a lot about Craigslist.org. I wonder why I look every day for bicycles and motorcycles when I already have a garage and three sheds full of the things. And I wonder how the site makes money -- there are no banners and no fees for posting ads.

Well, maybe the Craigslist owners are thinking what I’m thinking -- and that’s why they’re going to begin charging for some real estate ads, particularly in lucrative markets like New York City.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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