Nicholas Negroponte is always ahead of his time. When he envisioned One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), the average price for a PC was still hundreds of dollars. The industry rallied around his vision for a low-cost PC that anyone could use but couldn’t fathom innovative technology at the $100 price point he claimed he could hit.
But a little bit of time goes a long way: In the case of the newest low-cost computer, the Raspberry Pi, his vision is not only alive and well but selling out (Raspberry Pi Computers Sell Out On Launch).
Computing for everyone, starting with children, was the idea behind OLPC. And while the Raspberry Pi does target students, which is the most admirable of goals, it also puts a lot of computing power into the hands of anyone looking to create something interesting. $25 for a computing device is just incredible.
So why does this matter? Because it is showing just how well Moore’s law is at work and how consequently important free software is to the world of computing. For the price of four Raspberry Pi’s, you can’t even get a copy of Windows 7 at Best Buy. And that is just for the upgrade version.
Innovation is happening because the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg can grab free software and low cost hardware and DO SOMETHING. Zuckerberg even took the time to point out the power of the hacker way as he filed one of the biggest IPO’s of the decade. The next technology innovator doesn’t have to spend a fortune prototyping ideas or taking out licenses with everybody under the sun. With $25 and free software you can get started building something cool.
In fact, the only thing holding back this form of innovation is the billion dollar price of patents these days. This speaks miles to the power of getting the tools of innovation into the hands of many and the sad state of our current patent system. The only thing that holds back the next Steve Jobs is being sued by the company started by the late Steve Jobs.