On Price and Poverty
We have gotten a really important question from a lot of people. The question ultimately comes down to: How can someone making $1 day buy a $169 computer?
The answer is: they can't. We are addressing a very different problem. We are addressing the fact that the next billion people - the emerging global middle class - want access. And for this market, you have to build a product that they want, not the cheapest product.
The term "economic pyramid" was coined a few decades ago when most of the world made less than $3 per day. The term stuck around and when we imagine developing countries we tend to imagine something that looks like this Google Image result for "developing world."
Fortunately, that's not what most of the developing world looks like anymore. Over the past few decades, a few billion people have emerged from extreme poverty. The world isn't a pyramid anymore. It's a bell curve. The peak of that bell curve has shifted to an income that is just shy of $5,000 annually. In other words, most of the world is not in extreme poverty. They have food on the table, comfortable homes, and disposable income that they use to buy washing machines, motorcycles and TVs, and education for their children.
This picture gives a sense of who our users are. None of these children have a computer.
Endless spends a ton of time in the field designing with user feedback. We heard consistently from people that they want the best thing they can afford. Once we saw how consistent this feedback was - that they didn't want a piece of junk, even if it was cheap - we took a hard look at our assumptions around making this as cheap as possible. Our goal shifted and became: make the best computer for emerging markets. It had to be incredible, and affordable.
This is reflected in the hardware. We have made many decisions that have knowingly made it more costly. The specs. The plastics. The packaging. And we validated all of that by speaking with people in our markets around the world. They loved it and they could afford it.
But the reason that this is the best computer available for emerging markets is the software. The customization goes far deeper than just simplifying an interface. We solved issues like how to make a computer useful with spotty internet. People told us how important education is to them, so we loaded it with educational resources. When we understood how important the preservation of Mayan culture is to the Guatemalans, we made an app for it. When we heard that farmers wanted farming information, we did the same for that as well. Health information, recipes, and so much more are answered with the software.
Most of these changes would go unnoticed by the average person in the United States. But to a user in an emerging market, it's the difference between the OS being usable and not.
Just a few hours ago I crossed through Mexican immigration and the customs official asked what the device was. When she discovered that it was a computer, and when I told her about what the software could do, she called over two more officials: "look at how cool this is!" When I asked how much it should cost, their guess was $400. They couldn't believe it is $169.
We've seen hundreds of people react that way, eager to know when they could buy one. I'm just so happy to finally be able to say "now."