Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dreaming: Costs: How Low Can It Go?

Here's something to think about on a cloudy and cooling day in Lafayette: Just how cheap can full-throated modern computing go?

I'm beginning to think it can be damned near free...I'd like to know how close one can come.

I'd like to hear other folks speculation on this...both in the comments and if you'd like on a shared google doc.

But first some context and some ground rules:

I'm hoping to hear (soon) that Lafayette has succeeded in its appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court. In that happy event we'll all have some scrambling to do. They'll need to be some decisions made about things like system architecture, system governance, ground rules for businesses that want to use the facilities and--most cogently for this post--how the public will be served. What Lafayette voted for in July of 05 was a public utility and the presumption was that a public utility will serve the community better than a private one. (That didn't necessarily have to be the point of the vote but that was the way the referendum battle played out.) The basic benefit was to be lower costs and better service. What I'm interested in speculating on here is: What would the best service LUS could offer to its citizen-owners and the community? What course of action would yield the best return for the money invested?

Ground Rules for the "How Low Can You Go" Game, Lafayette Edition
1) Hardware: How cheap can the hardware component be?
2) Software: How cheap can the software component be?
3) Ubiquity: How close to providing these services to all can we come?
4) Sophistication: How many of the "standard" workaday functions can a minimal cost system provide? (e.g. email, browsing, calendaring, address books, write, spreadsheet, ......?)

5) Special Lafayette edition condition: you can assume a publicly-owned fiber to the home network whose goal is to promote the public good.

The ideal system would be cost nothing and provide all the standard amenities to all. How close can we come?

I've talked with a good number of people about this question. (e.g. 1, 2) So I know that there are some very interesting ideas out there and I'd like to gather the insights into one place. You can drop any brief thoughts to the comments. If you want to share a more extended response jump over to Google docs and edit the collaborative document I've set up there.

PS..accessing the the Google doc can be done with any browser. If you'd like to edit you will have to have, or sign up for a Google account. It's free, and the services it offers will serve as a good example of the sorts of apps people may no longer have to buy or maintain.

Coda: Food for Thought:
100 dollar laptop
Cosmopod (free hosted linux desktop with apps)
Google Docs and Spreadsheets, GMail, Google Calendar


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John said...


Sorry, while I share your hope for regional development you've got me confused with a buyer for LUS...I'm blogging on these topics as a private citizen.

You'll want to google up "Lafayette Utilities System" and "Fiber for the Future." Those are the folks that will be spending money.