Twenty-one year old John Leung was awarded a $US25,000 first prize by Bill Gates himself last week, in Microsoft's annual Next-Gen PC Design Competition. An undergraduate architecture student at the University of Melbourne, Leung's MADE in China submission took a novel approach to computing products and services, with the aim of bringing PCs to the emerging Chinese market.
MADE in China involves a streamlined design in which the PC itself contains no CPU, hard drive, graphics card or sound card. Software and components are stored by a service provider and accessed wirelessly on demand. The PC is operated via a touch-screen interface that is based on an Asian-style dining platter, and uses special chopsticks-like styli to enter commands.
At a closer look, it is clear that Leung's submission wasn't just a pretty design, but an intelligent business model aimed at China's 1.3-billion-person population. Liz Tay speaks with Leung about his vision, inspiration, and plans for the future.
When did you begin designing the MADE in China computer, and what inspired you to embark on the project in the first place?
It was when my grandmother from China said to me, 'I will never learn how to use the computer. It's expensive, complicated and irrelevant - I don't want to even touch it!', that I knew I could do something about it with my design skills.
I loved the PC and I wanted to spread the joy to everyone around me. MADE in China is all about spreading the use of PC to new users as well as catering for the need of existing users.
The design was initiated when Microsoft announced the [Next-Gen PC Design] competition for 2006-07. I took all the time I could to investigate and found that there were so many PCs in the market that were made in china but none of which are actually made for China, it really inspired me to design one - so that even my grandmother and a three-year-old toddler will be interested in using.
MADE in China's dining-platter design and chopsticks-like styli could bring a sense of familiarity to computing in the Chinese market.
Could you please briefly describe the design. What are some of your favourite features?
MADE in China spreads the use of the PC to the entire 1.3 billion population of this rapidly-developing nation. The revolutionary hardware and infrastructure creates a PC that is simple, affordable, profitable, and environmental - all without compromising performance, aesthetic, and convenience. Simply put, it is a $99 PC that only requires $1 a day to run, but as powerful as your current PC!
My favourite feature is one which is actually not listed on my 10 page design presentation but definitely possible with the MADE infrastructure. If your PC is stolen or crashed (especially just before a work submission), all you have to do is to get a another one from the shop or your friend, log-in as yourself, and instantly all your installed programs and data files will be in that system - exactly the way you had them! "Computer Cloning" is a feature of MADE in China.