NEW! Not quite the winner, but some warm words: Viridian Note 331 NEW!
Let's have a look what creates the conceptual victory condition in the Global Civil Society Designer Laptop Contest (GCSDLC):
First, the laptop -- I'd prefer the idea of a notebook -- must be very affordable, even speaking of affordability in the terms of, say, the majority of the population of India. We all need them, so we all must be able to buy them. (Or make them).
Second, it must be "green". Low-toxic production processes, recycled and recylable material, a modular way it's build so you can repair, low power consumption, and so on ...
Third, it must be portable. That is: it must be robust and very stable (no need to think about putting it away, no need for extra bags). It should have a very low power consumption (not only because it's "green" IT, but also because the necessarity to repower could be problematic under specific conditions, say a rally, an extended meeting, a tour through war-severed territory). And it should be light-weighted, because maybe you have to walk a while with the notebook in your backpack.
Fourth, there should be an in-build communication capacity. This defines the notebook in two ways: on the one hand, it should be possible to link it up to a WLAN and to communicate with other GCSDL-notebooks (and printers, and desktop PCs). On the other hand, communication capacity means: it should be easy to use the notebook as a communication device, for email and internet access as well as instead of a mobile phone.
Fifth, it must be global & civil also in terms of software. No new insular operating system, but something you'll get low-cost (cf. the first condition) and workable. Maybe standard GNU Linux, or some specialised Linux.
Sixth and last, the notebook must be -- let's speak designish -- cool. The "Whoa"-effect.
So, what would a GSCD laptop look like? The casing should be hard plastic, maybe recycled (paper isn't stable enough, metal weights to much). The display could be made of electric paper (maybe only b/w, but high contrast for our-door sunlight), a flexible hard plastic back, combined with a touch screen. To make the case compact (and more robust), it is to be rolled out (and you can even take the display element out of the case, if you need a good old writing block, then it will use wireless comm to "speak" with the main case).
Size of the notebook: 10" diagonally, so there is enough space for a good old fashioned keyboard. We need some inbuild GSM module, and a WLAN antenna. Or maybe a two-in-one for both. Infrared local connections, or bluetooth. Standard ports, say USB, to hook up standard tools, like a digital camera. The inner values? Staibility and a low price is more important than an ultrafast processor. 500 MHz with low energy consumption. A hard disk looks necessary, but is a critical point speaking in stability terms. Is infrared/WLAN enough, or do we need things like disks or optical drives? They could be external devices, only brought if necessary. Power? A fuel cell, or a solar panel?
What do we get? A mixture between the sub-notebooks and PDAs of today, webpads and some eco design. Nothing revolutionary per se. But something mass-usable in global terms. or to put it in some simple words: a hard plastic case in your favourite color (or in recycled-plastic style), maybe 20 cm long, 10 cm deep and 4 cm high, roundish. The only interface you'll see in closed state is for a power-cord and a handle to carry it. If you open it, you'll get a standard sub-notebook size keyboard, a 10" screen, which can be taken away and used as a webpad (or notepad) some metres around the main system, standard interfaces for USB, a speaker and a microphon to use it as a mobile phone, and a stylus to write on the epaper-screen.
Till Westermayer, 14.07.2002