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Sunday, March 25, 2007

The aura of laptops

After mobile phones could be afforded by 10% of our population, laptops had become the gadgets that could emit the halo; that all powerful tool that separated the have-nots from the haves. The gullible and easily excitable Indian media predicted certain victory for the BJP in the last general elections and one of the major reasons cited was the laptop always carried by BJP’s chief campaign manager, Pramod Mahajan. His laptop and the media’s speculation about the wonderful analysis and poll strategy coming out of it were touted as evidence that electioneering in India had come of age. When BJP received a shock defeat, the same laptop received a major share of the blame as it was post-analyzed as the symbol of BJP’s alienation from the masses.

Bob Woolmer’s laptop was also believed to be the main reason for his success as a coach for the South African cricket team. Once again everyone speculated about the remarkable analysis and strategies that must be coming out of his laptop. Even though the laptop failed to do similar wonders with the Pakistan team, every cricket coach is now expected to sit with an open laptop during his team’s matches.

The laptop aura is best experienced in our homes. Most parents believe that their working children who have been given laptops by their companies work day and night as they see him always facing the laptop. In most such occasion the laptop is just being used to watch videos on youtube. However, parents plea with their children to give their eyes some rest; some even ask them to look for a less taxing job even if that means less money.

So much so, last year, Nigeria decided to get involved in Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop per Child project which targets providing developing country kids with a $100 machine. India rejected taking part in the scheme and is instead working to develop a $10 version.

But as with mobile phones, laptops are also becoming more prevalent. In 2005, 1,25,000 laptops were sold in India, but at a growth rate of over 90%. Prices have come down to $600 for assembled versions. The ones who have it are already complaining of sore backs and necks and risk of batteries exploding while many have-nots have got access to carry-bags that mimic laptop bags in design thus diluting the aura even more. So what’s next to differentiating a high flying executive? Blackberrys, of course. And this time round, the haves will hope that Negroponte doesn’t start believing that a $100 Blackberry can change the fate of the developing world.

P.S: Please check out my post on Dabbawala service for laptops

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