While reading a post by Jake Tracey, in which he talks about his involvement with Chalk, a sudden thought popped into my head. With all these new Web 2.0 applications emerging, we are seeing a push more and more away from the dependency of the operating system to drive our applications to instead towards applications that can theoretically work on any computer. This is because all you should hopefully need in the future is a web browser which will become your portal to your Web Operating System which is where these applications will reside.
Now why I thought this was interesting was because I was reminded of a story earlier this year about Nicolas Negroponte and MIT working on a $100 laptop which would be given to children to use within the developing parts of the world. Now if you used the Web as the "operating system" for this $100 laptop wouldn’t it be almost possible to ditch the hard drive in it because you would only need enough flash memory space to boot up a browser (not to mention the system would boot almost instantly)?
If this is possible then basically you have a cheap inexpensive laptop that could participate, collaborate, and share on the Web like any other computer. If you plug USB devices into it such as a camera, then anything that is transferred to the laptop is actually being uploaded directly to this WebOS where all the person’s data resides. The end result is that you have a computing environment that would be pretty much accessible to almost anyone in the world. Even more so, as children are children, if one of these devices got damaged or destroyed then the child doesn’t lose anything because their files are stored online.
In addition, especially considering the frustrating Hurricane Katrina disaster situation right now in New Orleans, imagine how devices such as these would help relay information in disaster situations around the world? Once a WiFi emergency networking station is established, these $100 laptops could be given out to law enforcement officials and rescue workers to coordinate and relay critical situational awareness information that is needed to collaborate on such a huge undertaking. They could even setup these devices in various neighborhoods to give the local citizens a chance to talk to friends and family members in the rest of the world to let them know how they are doing.
Pushing this to the extreme, if these laptops (along with a cheap photo device) were given to the right citizens within such a disaster area (those who want to take charge of the situation and do some good), then these people could become the eyes and ears for the entire world relaying information on an ongoing basis to give everyone access to what is really going on and more importantly what needs to be done to alleviate the situation. As I mentioned before in my last post about the disaster, information is power. The more useful information that can be relayed from different areas of the disaster, the more that people can collaborate and help each other out. As many are seeing from the Hurricane Katrina disaster, a lack of information can have devastating effects which can result in men, women, and children losing their lives unnecessarily.