Ultraportable versus Smartphone

Ultraportable versus Smartphone

[:en]Starting from the idea that the ultraportable low cost PCs (first of all the OLPC and then the Asus EEEPc, the Intel Classmate, ecc. ) are a good example of a value innovation, as defined in the Blue Ocean strategy , instead than a technical innovation, I am trying to figure who are the target of these kind of product.

The OLPC of Negroponte carries the idea that the children of the developing Countries have the same rights to use the latest available technology and that this could allow to fill the gap (and the debt) from the so-called developed world.

The Negroponte challenge (dream?) to overcome lacking of infrastructure in terms of energy-suppliers (no need for electricity but using solar energy) , of connections (no need for broadband using wifi technology), in terms of training (an intuitive interface designed especially for chldrens) and teachers, in terms of knowledge (no needs for the old fashioned books, wikipedia will replace them), is now facing the reality. The risk is that the vision of the best designers coming from the best research lab in the world produced something that doesn’t fit the needs of the target. Something similar, in my opinion, to what happens with the NEXT of the Steve Jobs about 15 years ago.

I think that many people, dealing about technology and education, now is wondering if the OLPC, with his odd interface, is the right tool for children, or if it is better to get some other kind of ultraportable low cost Pcs, with a more “traditional” interface.

And what about professionals, the so called nomadic work? Is it better for them to buy a smartphone or an ultraportable? what could be more helpful for them? I posed the question, in a short (and maybe confused) formulation, through Linkedin “question and answers” feature.

The question was:

If you have a budget of 400$, you will buy an ultraportable low cost Pc (EeePc-like) or a new (assume you already got one) cellular phone?

I think that ultraportable low cost PC could really have an impact in

– reducing digital divide, also in terms of digital literacy

– changing the way people will use PC

– affecting marketing

After the first answers I added the following clarification:

I am aware comparing oranges and apples, and this is the dilemma of the question 🙂

For example, in my country (Italy) the percentage of person having a cell phone is about 100%, instead about 47%-50% of the people have a PC.

For a large company, selling services/product by the web, is it more interesting that people got a PC or a smart-phone?

From a political point of view, if you are a policy maker, is it more interesting that people got a PC or a smart-phone?


I was very excited to get answers from different parts of the world in a few hours. Every answer was really thorough:from India to US, all the people answered that, as the question presumed they already own a cellular phone, they will prefer to buy an ultraportable.

It is also considered preferable for children and in general for increasing the digital literacy.

The answer that really surprised me was the one from a pilot from Anchorage, he said:

“I’ve been watching Internet Devices since the late 90s. I “had” considered the Nokia 810. But for my primary purpose, work, electronic document fetch, flight planning/data fetch, coffee house/hot spot browsing, mobility and portability, durability, and ease of use in a small place ( cockpit ) i’m going with the ASUS 4G not a “surf” model or higher.

Finally, it is very amazing for me, to think that an artefact, conceived for illiterate poor children of the third world, could fit the needs of a pilot in Alaska. My other conclusion is: do we really need more and more complicated (and expensive) cellular phones or we look only for luxury toys? ;-)[:]

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