Computers are getting cheaper and cheaper.
Some people in the industry predict that we are on the Virge of significant cuts in computer prices.
This might be needed to continue to fuel computer consumerism.
When computer are cheap enough this might dramatically affect the lives of people in third world countries....
Computers are staying useful for longer. Indeed the computer that I am writing this on is already 8 years old (with a few upgrades). The result is obvious, people are not replacing their computer as often. To entice consumers value has to be created. The smart consumer already knows how much they will benefit from a new machine, but now they need a price incentive before they are prepared to throw away something thats still very functional and useful.
Whats that got to do with the third world? Lots.
Incidentally at this point I would like to add the although widely used, third world is not really a very appropriate term these days. Developing nations is generally considered better.
While its not currently incredibly viable economically to ship all our old computers to developing nations, as computers and screens get smaller, it is becoming more and more viable.
In the mean time an ever increasing amount of people in developing nations will be able to afford new computers simply due to lower prices. It's pretty obvious that as entry level price drops more customers in developing nations who previously couldn't afford a computer will be 'created'.
The amazing rise of Linux has also vastly contributed to the ability of such people to have access to capable technology. Ubuntu was designed for this purpose entirely. To bring a fantastic operating system to absolutely free to everyone who wants one.
The great thing about all this is how rapidly it will increase prospects for those in developing nations. The Internet is the one place were we are all together and we are all equal. Do you think America would be so quick to invade Iraq if corporate America employed large programming and web services from workers in that region? It may not be big in Iraq, but contract programming and web services available over the Internet are big business. Do you think that cool application you just found was made in you country just because it's in your language?
The one laptop per child (olpc) program was created to put a sub US$100 laptop in the hands of children in developing nations. At the moment the product they have created is a little bit more than their goal of US$100 but it wont be long before it surpasses that milestone and will only get cheaper.
When the developing nations can school up via the Internet and provide services to the rest of the world, money will start to flow in their direction. Even for those who won't want to learn programming or web design, there is no shortage of service opportunities provided by the Internet. There are an abundance of smart people who will provide us with cultural, intellectual insights and news via their blogs and earn revenues through advertising and affiliate marketing.
It's a great prospect. Very little is consumed during the process. When someone spends a day blogging, the only thing they consume is power and time. Not only are no trees cut down to make the product they sell, the income created may even mean they less people cutting down trees for farm land. Sure I admit power is still a big problem for this planet, but eco friendly power solutions are getting better while processors are continuing to use less juice.
Whichever way you look at it, I think its a positive thing. Technology will bring opportunities to those who don't have them and through this they will prosper.
Peace and quad cores to all.