Switched On: TCPC

Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:

Hot on the heels of growing momentum signaled by Intel pledging support to the humanitarian One Laptop Per Child initiative, a coalition of software and service providers have banded together to propose a new group aimed at the burgeoning computer platform. By exposing these first-time computer users to offers preloaded onto the device's nominal internal flash memory, the members of Ten Craplets Per Child propose to significantly lower the cost of the One Laptop Per Child device.

"Only a nefarious cretin would go to the trouble of writing a virus for a device designed for children living in some of the most difficult conditions on the planet," said Russ Vai, vice president of viral marketing at security software company Parannoyer, "So we expect a whole raft of malware to be available within weeks of the OLPC device being distributed throughout an economy." Vai also responded to the full-screen red warning label featuring a human skull that the security suite displays whenever the Web browser is started. "Backers say that the OLPC machine's mesh networking provides a gateway for connected devices to a world of knowledge, but it could become the knowledge of a device crawling with digital destruction," he said, erupting in evil laughter.

Other members of the coalition positioned their products as complementing the OLPC's design. "The OLPC camera can capture video," said Faye DeBlack, CEO of video editing software company Videodious, "But our software will let these aspiring Spielbergs and Lucases punch up their recordings with a lifetime of Hollywood-style special effects provided they can do so within 30 days or spend $499. A child's first Internet video call may be magical, but it's a lot more magical in bullet time. After all, nobody wants to watch poorly composed and edited low-resolution video," she said, glancing up from YouTube on her iPhone.

"These kids have never been on the Internet before. We're extending a learned guide that will help them find the best sites and the hottest deals," said Webb Bugg, chief tool at direct marketing company Toolbarf. "Why use the specially designed screen for computing outdoors in the real world when these kids can while away hours in our people ready sponsored virtual mall changing the outfits on their people ready amusing avatars, especially when our ever-present people ready toolbar will tell them what the weather is like outside?".

Not all offers are for software installs, either. According to Support Jocks president Ian Stahler, many of his technicians who have large National Geographic collections have eagerly volunteered to be dispatched to distant lands and have expressed keen interest in both the device's video camera and convenient flash drive-accommodating USB port. Stahler said he is proposing changing the name of the OLPC initiative to One Laptop and Tech Support Person Per Child.

"You can't spell 'non-profit' without 'profit,'" said Hugh Sless, president of TCPC, "When fully loaded with all our offers, the OLPC laptop lacks any room for the first empowering fruits of digital creativity. That said, we're working on getting the boot time to well under 10 minutes.

Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis for consumer technology at market research and analysis firm The NPD Group,. His blog can be read at Views expressed in Switched On are his own. Toolbar illustration courtesy of Raymond.CC.