Gates Pokes Fun at $100 Laptop

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates derided the $100 laptop being developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Wednesday, criticizing its lack of features. Gates has been described as privately bitter over MIT's decision to reject using Windows on the device.

Gates met with then MIT Media Lab chairman Nicholas Negroponte in November. According to reports, Negroponte told Gates he was only interested in using open source software on the device. He had also rebuffed an offer from Apple to use free copies of Mac OS X for a similar reason.

At a speech at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in Washington, D.C., Gates mocked the devices lack of a hard disk and small screen. He also said it missed the boat on software applications and support, which he explained is where the "big costs come from" making such a device.

Before his comments, Gates had showed off one of the new ultra-mobile PCs, which run Windows XP and include a seven-inch screen. It's not clear whether he was trying to market the UMPC as a better alternative; the devices are over six times the cost, from $599 to $999.

Gates criticized the devices as being being inadequate for shared-use computers. However, the title of the project is One Laptop Per Child, and statements from the group indicate that each child would have their own device.

"If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user," Gates chided. "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."

Gates' comments were similar to those made by Intel's chairman Craig Barrett in December, when Barrett said the device isn't worthy of being called a laptop and potential computer users would scoff at the computer's lack of features.

The MIT $100 laptop is powered by AMD processors, Intel's chief competitor.

One Laptop Per Child declined to comment.

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