The Face of the $100 Laptop

From Business Week: The Face of the $100 Laptop.

The so-called $100 laptop that’s being designed for school children in developing nations is known for its bright green and white plastic shell, its power-generating hand crank, and for Nicholas Negroponte, the technology futurist who dreamed it up and who tirelessly promotes it everywhere from Bangkok to Brasilia. What has not received much attention is the graphical user interface — the software that will be the face of the machine for the millions of children who will own it. In fact, the user interface, called Sugar, may turn out to be one of the more innovative aspects of a project that has already made breakthroughs in mesh networking and battery charging since Negroponte unveiled the concept two years ago.

Sugar offers a brand new approach to computing. Ever since the first Apple Macintosh was launched in 1984, the user interfaces of personal computers have been designed based on the same visual metaphor: the desktop. Sugar tosses out all of that like so much tattered baggage. Instead, an icon representing the individual occupies the center of the screen; "zoom" out like a telephoto lens and you see the user in relation to friends, and finally to all of the people in the village who are also on the network.

It’s the first complete rethinking of the computer user interface in more than 30 years. "We’re building something that’s right for the audience," says Chris Blizzard, the engineering project leader for Sugar. "We don’t just take what’s already there and say it’s good enough. You can do better." [continue]

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