[Air-l] Fwd: [school-discuss] $100.00 laptop

Joanne Jacobs joanne at joannejacobs.net
Wed Sep 28 17:13:29 PDT 2005

I agree that the objective is to drive down the price of the technology.
But that's not what a *scam* imitation will do.

Let me explain with an example. My partner recently returned from Shenzhen
in China with a USB flash card, badged as a Sony VAIO device, and claiming
to store 4GB of data.  He picked this device up for about US$30.  He put it
into his machine, and sure enough the device registered as storing 4GB of
data.  But once you actually put more than 128MB of data on the device, and
tried to access any of the files, it would simply stop functioning and could
not even be reformatted again.  

The object of the scam imitation was not to drive the price of USB thumb
drives down, but to *appear* to operate as a 4GB device whilst actually
using cheaper parts, rebadged.  

To be honest I have no problem with knockoff devices if they function with
the same or similar integrity of the originals.  And I hate buying labels
just because they are labels.  My concern is with devices that appear to
operate in accordance with specifications but actually do not.
Economically, the effect of such an eventuality is actually to *drive prices
of original devices up*.  Because there is a need to delineate the real from
the knock-off, the "De Beers effect" arises, and legitimate companies need
to invest in expensive watermarking of products to ensure product integrity
- and without a doubt the cost of developing such proof of product integrity
is passed on to the consumer.

It's probably more of an economic argument than a technological one.  But
it's still a concern that needs to be addressed.


Joanne Jacobs, Project Manager
Australasian CRC for Interaction Design (ACID)
A Commonwealth Cooperative Research Centre

-----Original Message-----
From: air-l-aoir.org-bounces at listserv.aoir.org
[mailto:air-l-aoir.org-bounces at listserv.aoir.org] On Behalf Of Jeremy
Sent: Thursday, 29 September 2005 9:56 AM
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Subject: Re: [Air-l] Fwd: [school-discuss] $100.00 laptop

while scam products are a problem, i think that the point is less to  
encourage scam devices as to establish less expensive derivatives.   
it is actually fairly cheap to produce an advanced x86 processor  
these days, under license or not, and if you have compilers the  
processors might become less important in respect to fucntionality.  
no?  anyway, i think knockoff in this case are actually the point of  
the project in political economy terms.  why else would you be moving  
the cost differential to that low of a point?    you can argue that  
it is cost, but cost of production is sort of 'moot' for computers  
like these, markets are what matters, so how do you get past the  
basic idealizes profit motives of producers...?  through knockoff  
producers aiming toward getting cheaper and cheaper instead of  
getting more expensive.
On Sep 28, 2005, at 7:48 PM, Joanne Jacobs wrote:

> I've just discussed this on my blog, and while I'm a fan, I'm  
> concerned
> about the business logistics of releasing the device among nations  
> that will
> incubate a grey market for the product and possibly also develop scam
> imitations of the MIT-developed device.
> ____________________________________________
> Joanne Jacobs, Project Manager
> Australasian CRC for Interaction Design (ACID)
> A Commonwealth Cooperative Research Centre
> http://www.joannejacobs.net/

Jeremy Hunsinger
Center for Digital Discourse and Culture
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