The season's two hottest tech products come in green. And the similarities stop right ... about ... there.
A hand crank-powered $100 laptop for Third World schoolchildren is a silly bright lime, with a yellow crank. The gaudy colors blare, "I'm for kids! If you steal or sell me, everybody will know and you'll be a jerk."
Then there's the eerie, alien-evoking green of the next-generation Xbox 360. While the box itself is white, its lights glow with a mysterious tinge that seems to be whispering something alluring about futuristic jetfighters or fantasyland stoplights stuck in "go."
One basked in the glow of Hollywood celebrities at its launch party. The other was unveiled a few hours later in prototype form at a U.N. conference in Tunisia. Neither is actually on sale yet: The 360 is in stores Tuesday, and the laptop should start shipping in February or March.
Here's a side-by-side look at their tech specs and launch-day vibes.
Xbox 360 -- $299 for the base unit, but that's like an Xbox eunuch. Gamers can easily spend $600 to get all the, ahem, peripherals, needed to take full advantage of its next-gen technology. Things like a 20 GB hard drive, wireless controller, headset or HD-ready cable.
$100 Laptop -- Well, duh. MIT Media Lab chairman Nicholas Negroponte says his organization will sell 1 million for $100, $10 less than the estimated production cost, to the education ministries of Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria. They, in turn, will give them away to schoolchildren. Who will promptly go on the Internet to learn about the latest Xbox games.
INSIDE THE BOX:
Xbox 360 -- Three core processors at 3.2 GHz each, 512 MB RAM. No screen, but a custom 500 MHz ATI graphics processor suitable for high-definition TVs. Three USB ports. Wireless Internet.
$100 Laptop -- Willfully low-tech. But absolutely kills the Xbox when it comes to, well, USB ports. It's got four. Plus an LCD screen that switches to black and white and costs $35 to make. Also wireless Internet. A 1 GB hard drive and a 500 MHz processor -- about one-twentieth the 360's speed. Gotta "trim the fat," Negroponte says.
Xbox 360 -- Paris and Nicky Hilton showed up for the party at a Beverly Hills mansion, but didn't touch any boxes, at least in public. Big Boi from Outkast also didn't play. He smoked. Matthew Perry tried a racing game. Fergie from Black Eyed Peas got a free 360 and showed off her humps to "Vegas" star Josh Duhamel.
$100 Laptop -- It was the World Summit on the Information Society, so you know the heavy hitters were there. Thirty-three plenary speakers including France Telecom CEO Didier Lombard. Other big names: Slovenia State Secretary Dr. Janez Mozina, and Gillian MacIntyre, Trinidad and Tobago's Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Administration and Information.
Xbox 360 -- "The feel of the game is definitely different," Snoop Dogg told asap after twice beating Wilmer Valderrama in Madden. "It felt more real, like I was really on the field when I was playing football. (It's) dope. Just the way it moved, you got more control of it. They got more plays now."
$100 Laptop -- "These robust, versatile machines will enable children to become more active in their own learning," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters in Tunis.
Xbox 360 -- Maker Microsoft Corp. has never been too ambitious. Its plans: Dominate the holiday season for Microsoft Corp. by beating Sony's next-gen console to market by months. Dominate buyers' living rooms by linking video games to streaming music and other multimedia content. Turn 360's vibrating controllers into an addictive must-have daily fix for hands everywhere.
$100 Laptop -- Put the power of computers in the hands of the world's poorest children. No vibrations. Negroponte says it's an educational and play tool that's rugged enough to be "owned" and thus cared for by youngsters. In one Cambodian village where it's being tested, he said, it was also the brightest light source in homes.
asap staff reporter Ryan Pearson envisions a future in which he can use the wireless technology of the 360 and the $100 laptop to lose to a Cambodian teenager in Madden.