Mike Isaac

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President Clinton at CES: The World Needs More Smartphones (And Fewer Guns)

Tim Hamilton/Flickr

It was a bit of a head-scratcher to see former President Bill Clinton on the Samsung keynote roster at CES 2013. Obviously, it had to do with star power and pulling in audience attention, but I was curious to see how Samsung would tie in the president’s cameo.

Surprise — part of his appearance actually made sense. Since leaving office, Clinton has been a major proponent of aiding the developing world, especially in disaster- and poverty-stricken nations like Haiti, where citizens don’t have the same access to the creature comforts of the first world.

That’s where the Samsung pairing comes in. The South Korean conglomerate sells hundreds of millions of smartphones globally each year, and has been one of the leaders in the race to dominate the low end of Android-powered mobile devices.

Efforts to get those phones into the hands of people in impoverished rural areas, Clinton said, should be a priority in world humanitarian efforts. For many, the cellphone is the first — and only — point of entry to having a bank account, or to standardize commodity food prices across their particular region.

Big business agrees with Clinton on focusing on the developing world for growth — just with a different incentive in mind. As smartphone tech becomes cheaper and more widely available, millions of first-time users will start regularly accessing the Internet via mobile device, especially in Asia and South America. While smartphone penetration continues to reach record highs in the U.S., international markets remain the major area for potential growth.

That wasn’t all the president wanted to talk about. In light of the recent Newtown, Conn., school massacre and subsequent assault weapon debates springing up in its wake, Clinton addressed the need for greater gun control in the U.S., especially considering the nation’s high death rate.

“I grew up in a hunting culture, but this is nuts,” he said, citing the gun-related deaths occurring since the assault weapons ban — which Clinton helped to pass in office — expired in 2004. “Why does anybody need a 30-round clip for a gun?”

So, yeah, it got a bit political. But he’s the 42nd president of the United States; tech conference keynote or no, he can pretty much do what he wants.

(Image Credit: Tim Hamilton/Flickr)


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work