I am sure you have heard about the MIT/Negroponte $100 PC which has a crank to get power, etc. My fiurst business was building PCs and I thought building a $100 PC was a pretty good challenge.
Last week at MGX Microsoft's CTO Craig Mundie demonstrated Fone Plus but I could not talk about it. Now that it is a public I can share my excitement with you.
Basically, you take a Windows Mobile phone and add an RF connection out to a TV and a plug for a standard keyboard (fancy Bluetooth keyboards would work, but not inline with the goals of the project, right?).
Such a computer, sorry- phone, would give the user Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, plus about 20,000 apps that exist out there for Windows Mobile. In addition, it runs the .NET copact framework so it is also a viable platform for running custom apps on top of a solid technology.
Students who start developing for FonePLus would have a smooth transition to develop for the full .NET platform, getting them productive in a professional environment faster - what I mean is the skills they would learn are more diurecly applicable to the real world work scenarios on "full " PCs.
The video connection is leveraging some of the technology that Microsoft Research created for IPTV (maybe even ClearType). The external keyboards are available for <$10 and almost everyone in the world has access to a TV.
FonePlus could provide WiFi, WAN (since it is a phone it already supports cellular network data), additional storage (i.e. SD Card), Bluetooth, IrDA, cameras, and everything that Windows Mobile supports.
The technology exists today, making the cost of developing this very reasonable, could be real in a few months, and it would leverage a platform that has received significant investment from Microsoft and our partners. And a platform that would continue to be developed on so there is no risk of becoming obsolete or requiring a significant investment to keep it current.
Last week a report was out inthe internet from a reputable source claiming the Motorola Q only costs ~$150 to build. While I am skeptical about that number, I think FonePlus could be built at a pretty reasonable cost. Especially since most ysers would not need the built-in screen which is a large percentage of the cost. For some scenarios, eliminating the cellular radio would be another cost saving option. Now the $100 target cost seems reasonable.
According to the lastest data, there are ~2.6 Billion wireless subscibers out there. Fone Plus could mean -short term- that every one of those 2.6 Billion people would potentially have access to a computer, the internet, media (for training, for example) and a complete set of apps. If 2.6 billion people can afford a phone and a monthly bill, how many billions (out of the 6 billion WW population) could use a device like the FonePlus?
Isn't this a fantastic idea? What do you think?
Link to the Engadget article: http://www.engadgetmobile.com/2006/07/28/microsoft-demos-foneplus-olpc-killer/