this just in: All your planet are belong to us

How will it change the world to give millions of children low-cost computers and open source software? The first real effect is to provoke a response from Microsoft.

Initially Wintel executives dismissed and ridiculed the OLPC project. But now Microsoft is employing the infamous embrace-and-destroy practice that it has always used to subdue competition.

People are already reporting that Microsoft now plans to give away crippled versions of their software for as little as $3 a copy. But take a look at the real deal. Professional edition can be had for a dollar. Most importantly, the program offers cheap used junk Wintel computers, with Microsoft paying half the cost. In order to place their software in the world’s hands, they intend to undercut the complete OLPC package cost by roughly half. Never mind that the crap boxes consume massive amounts of unavailable power, require massive wired infrastructure through the rainforests, are full of toxins, not hardened against sand and kid use, etc. And of course, the software is the same crap they foist on the rest of us.

Clever, no?

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. Gee, how do you feel about this plan?

    I really do think that the Wintel plan is unlikely to succeed. More and more people in poor countries understand the meaning of open source, and they’re very aware of the “embrace and extend” philosophy, which, unfairly or not, is the way they perceive virtually all economic relationships with the “developed” world. They will see the deal the way you do. Of course, wintel is the standard, now, so that gives the plan some appeal. But as “web 2.0” displaces Wintel hegemony, that argument will have less power.

  2. That’s interesting – this idea that poor countries have their eyes wide open to the ills that we so often commit.

    There’s a view in some circles that the poor countries (particularly including China) are going to be the ones to create efficient and sustainable energy technology that will drive the world economies in the coming centuries. They have the need – as we all do – but are not bound by existing broken infrastructure and the associated existing broken interests. There are two things that can stop them – their own corrupt special interests, or ours.

    We see the same technology development needs, but fail to act successfully because our own powerful corrupt special interests control our existing infrastructure and institutions, and we don’t want to believe that they are holding us back. I find it comforting and encouraging to think that the poor countries see our bad guys more clearly than we seem to.

  3. John:

    The MS folks will, in tried and true form, use multiple strategies to attempt to foreclose the markets. This will no doubt include using “strategic partnerships” with large businesses and governments in the relvant counrties, use of exclusive agreements to prohiobit open source, and — ultimately – threats to withhold other forms of aid (such as the money provided by the Gates Foundation) to protect themselves.

    I do not say this to discourage, but to prepare. These stratgies can be countered. But anyone who does not recognize this as war against a monopolist fighting for survival is begging to get blindsided.

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