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The Almighty Buck Education Hardware

Intel Resigns from One Laptop Per Child Project 338

theodp writes "Reportedly angered by the One Laptop Per Child project's demand that it curtail work on its Classmate PC and other cheap laptops, Intel has resigned from the project's board and canceled plans for an Intel-based OLPC laptop. Intel's withdrawal from the project comes less than six months after the chip-making giant earned kudos for agreeing to contribute funding and join the board of OLPC. It's the latest blow to the OLPC, whose CTO quit earlier this week to launch a for-profit company to commercialize her OLPC inventions."
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Intel Resigns from One Laptop Per Child Project

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  • FPFPFPFP (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xtracto ( 837672 )
    Thats what happens when you leave the wonders of "capitalism" do their job. Everybody wants a piece of the $$$$$ and after they see that there is market for something they will try to milk the cow!!
    • Re:FPFPFPFP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:33AM (#21908356)
      there is no money in this market. they are "competing" with a nonprofit, and will pull out once OLPC is dead. this is a business strategy, and the losers are OLPC and a generation of children.
      • Actually the only reason intel is likely pulling out of this is the lawsuit regarding the keyboard on the laptop they are running before they have to pay up....
        • Doubtful. That lawsuit is bullshit. It brought by a con artist in a country of con artists. Any ruling on it would best be ignored.

    • Re:FPFPFPFP (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:42AM (#21908424) Journal
      What confuses me is that the OLPC association is ADAMANT about not offering their product commercially. This makes no sense. Given:

      1) Minimum production runs are required to meet the desired price point
      2) Meeting minimum production quantities had been difficult
      3) There is demand in the private/consumer market for the product

      It seems to only make sense to offer the units to the consumer market, which would solve the minimum production run issue AND help subsidize the cost of the units shipped to their intended market. Especially since, by definition, their intended market is the demographic that can't afford them in the first place.

      Extending and promote the "get one give one" program, is one way to do this. Another way is to sell them for a slight profit ($300 each instead of $200?) to schools in industrialized countries for the same purpose. Being a non-profit company does not preclude actually making money.
      • by Marcion ( 876801 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:58AM (#21908552) Homepage Journal
        What confuses me is that the OLPC association is ADAMANT about not offering their product commercially.

        Several of the world's most important tech companies, and lots of talented people, work for free at cost on the OLPC. They do this because OLPC is not competing with their own business operations.

        If the OLPC becomes a commercial operation, then they risk cannabalising these firm's own operations, therefore OLPC have to tread very carefully.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          If they would quit with the free love charity work and just agree to sell them to the market that wants them, those people (or others with similar abilities) could be EMPLOYED by the project.

          The entire OLPC model is causing problems at this point, EeePC just completely stole the market from them with a better device, quicker.
        • Can't risk scaring off a big tech backer like, say, intel, now, can we?
        • Several of the world's most important tech companies, and lots of talented people, work for free at cost on the OLPC.

          Huh? It's either one or the other- free, or at cost. "At cost" isn't "free". Which is it?

      • Capitalism (Score:2, Insightful)

        by WED Fan ( 911325 )

        What confuses me is that the OLPC association is ADAMANT about not offering their product commercially. This makes no sense.

        The great thing about capitalism is that it allows us to run commercial for-profit businesses that provide capital that can in turn be used for non-profit purposes. By selling OLPC commercially and for profit, money could be raised to send them to communities that need them. However, I think the test for "need" should include that food, housing, health, and infrastructure needs are m

    • Re:FPFPFPFP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:08AM (#21908640) Journal
      Everybody wants a piece of the $$$$$ and after they see that there is market for something they will try to milk the cow!!

      I would normally agree with you... Except that a commercial low-end laptop offering by Intel wouldn't compete with the OLPC. Quite the opposite, in fact! OLPC had Intel pouring money and technology into a project that would effectively give away what Intel hoped to sell.

      I consider myself pretty hardcore anti-corporate, and I find it pretty hard to call Intel the bastards on this one. They wanted to sell to a market that OLPC didn't want to touch (and apparently didn't want to let anyone else touch, either).
  • by ExE122 ( 954104 ) * on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:26AM (#21908298) Homepage Journal

    Bender agreed, noting that the OLPC hasn't locked itself into any one partner's technology. "We're looking as broadly as possible, these solutions don't exist just within one company or one architecture," he said.
    He then concluded the interview by downing a beer, lighting a cigar, and exclaiming, "Bite my shiny metal ass!"

  • by Arthur B. ( 806360 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:28AM (#21908310)
    So now the CTO will be selling his inventions to people who decide to buy them with their own money, instead of selling them to captive taxpayers in poor countries. I call this a moral improvement.

    (burn karma, burn)
    • her inventions (Score:4, Informative)

      by dominux ( 731134 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:39AM (#21908400) Homepage
      yes, she will. She helped develop new innovations and bring the project from drawing board to production. Her job is done. Now someone else will manage the continuing development of the product as it moves from technology transfer to mass production.
    • Your argument only holds weight in dictatorships where taxpayers are "captive."

      I'm curious about the legal arrangement that allows her to resign from the OLPC project with ownership if these technologies? Was it a volunteer position or something? Using a nonprofit as an unwitting venture capitalist to do R&D on for-profit technologies is uncool, and I have to wonder if it's even legal. (What's to stop all corporations from spawning nonprofit subsidiaries to do their R&D?)

      • Happens all the time in academia. Nonprofit dollars go toward professors research, which they later turn around and start a business capitalizing on the results of said research.
  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) * on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:30AM (#21908330) Homepage Journal
    ... now that everyone has his data stored away the project is obsolete anyway.

    For an insightful view of the project from India I may refer to 'OLPC -- Rest in Peace' [deeshaa.org], already written July 2006. 'Formula for Milking the Digital Divide' [deeshaa.org] might also be interesting.


    • by DuncanE ( 35734 ) * on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:18AM (#21908728) Homepage
      Those numbers from India are really eye opening.

      For the kind of dollars India has to spend to see a reasonable percentage of the OLPC they could do many different things. Assuming the OLPC really does cost the equivalent of 30% per capita income in India that means if they just buy 3 million of them thats the same as 1 million teachers salaries.

      These numbers blow my mind.

      Not to mention that India is now probably the largest growing IT country in the world.

      The OLPC was meant to be "teach a man to fish and he will feed for a lifetime" , but instead it seems to be more "give a man a cheap JetSki and he will eventually learn to fish".
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        Yeah, I mean, what are the chances a backwards nation like India could ever be sophisticated enough to use computers? What are they going to do, compete with programmers in Silicon Valley over the Internet? Ha! They'll never recoup [infoworld.com] a $100 investment that way!
  • Really a blow? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Potor ( 658520 ) <farker1.gmail@com> on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:30AM (#21908332) Journal
    Although it does represent a loss of funds and perhaps some technological support, it also weakens the Wintel aspect of the machine and stresses the philosophical and philanthropic goals of OLPC. And I assume that Negroponte can function perfectly well with AMD, who will now presumably have a lock on this market and the goodwill it generates.
    • Re:Really a blow? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:41AM (#21908416) Journal
      Win tel?

      OLPC has always been a Linux offering I thought. There is no Windows about it it, and that's what MS has been whining about.
      • yes, Wintel (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Potor ( 658520 )
        without intel, ms has less of a chance of sneaking onto the machine [google.com]. and that's why i said weaken(ed), not removed.
        • Re:yes, Wintel (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:49AM (#21908482) Journal
          It could sneak on just as easy with an x86 based AMD.

          it'd have to move completely off the x86 platform to really reduce the possibility of Windows use (and even then, I think CE works on some non-x86 setups).

          Anyway, who cares, if someone wants to pay extra and put windows on it, it's their business. It's not my job (or yours, or anyones) to dictate what OS can be used on someones computer.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Potor ( 658520 )

            It could sneak on just as easy with an x86 based AMD.

            OLPC has an x86 based spec, so sure it could, but that's not my point.

            Anyway, who cares, if someone wants to pay extra and put windows on it, it's their business. It's not my job (or yours, or anyones) to dictate what OS can be used on someones computer.

            But this is closer to my point. If both MS and Intel were on board, you can bet that soon someone would be deciding what OS some developing-world government is putting on its OLPCs. And if this is a char

          • It's not my job (or yours, or anyones) to dictate what OS can be used on someones computer.
            I'm a Bootcamp codemonkey you insensitive clod! >:(
            • Bootcamp lets you boot other OSes than MacOS on a Mac, without actually forcing you to use them, right?

              That's fits pretty nicely what I was saying - nobody should be force to use an OS they don't want to use (and provding options reduces the chances of the person being forced.)
              • Yep it makes the process easier, though I'm sure there exist Apple engineers' whose purpose is to stop Mac OS working on non Apple hardware, which is another way of 'forcing' people to use a certain OS (in this case any x86 OS other than Mac OS).
                • That strikes me more of a method of forcing people to buy Mac hardware if they want MacOS, and causing hardware-lock.

                  Makes sense, from the perspective of them being a hardware company.

                  Bootcamp makes me chuckle when I hear of it though, I actually know a place that bought a bunch of Mac Minis for a computer lab, because for some arcane reason, they needed vista, and the minis were the cheapest way to get it running decently without getting completely unstable hardware, or hardware that would fail in a year.
    • by ExE122 ( 954104 ) *
      I agree that they're not completely done for, but I think the real "blow" is the bad press and the loss of a very well known and important investor. Not only does this highlight yet another failure on OLPC's part, but a lot of the work that Intel has put in to the project will go away with Intel. It's more than just a loss of funds. The backlash for recovering all that work is going to come at cost as well.

      And I assume that Negroponte can function perfectly well with AMD

      I dunno, he didn't seem to handle

      • by Pecisk ( 688001 )
        I think saying that Intel has put some work into project would be overestemate, because they joined only last autumn. OLPC has been in development much much longer and I highly doubt that it will somehow impact technical stuff. It can impact financial side, but I hope some more honest player can roll in.
  • by Marcion ( 876801 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:33AM (#21908348) Homepage Journal
    OLPC is not a laptop project, it is an educational project, the software and the content and more important than the hardware. Intel seemingly could not get over its short term desire to sell its own processors and kill AMD. Silly because if the OLPC takes off then there will be a bigger market for everyone's processors,
    • by faloi ( 738831 )
      Intel's job is to sell their processor. If the software and content are truly more important and compelling than the hardware, the OLPC people shouldn't have a problem with Intel working on other similar projects at the same time. Intel is still selling to Apple and HP, and making their own boxes (albeit often rebranded). It sounds more like the OLPC folks believe their way is the only right way, and if you're not solely for them you must be against them.
      • The problem is that Intel is "competing" by dumping their product below cost. I think the fear is that they will take over the market because of that, and when the OLPC project subsequently dies, drop out of that market because it's low margin... leaving kids with no options. It's not like they have a reputation for playing fair.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by goldspider ( 445116 )
      I still can't shake the feeling that this entire OLPC project is an enormous waste of money, intended more to assuage misplaced Western guilt than to bring about any fundamental change in impoverished areas.

      Poverty isn't caused by a lack of computers, and I doubt cheap computers are going to solve the problem. There are far greater political factors perpetuating poverty that need to be addressed first. Until then, the tangible value of this kind of charity is dubious.
      • by Marcion ( 876801 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @12:25PM (#21910238) Homepage Journal
        >Poverty isn't caused by a lack of computers

        But it is caused by lack of information and lack of education.

        The OLPC comes loaded with electronic 50 books in the native language, it would cost $1000 to print that many books, even more to ship them to the kids. The OLPC also gives access to the web, which allows an amazing amount of information (and an amazing amount of crap too, but that doesn't stop the information).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Plekto ( 1018050 )
          That's absolutely true. And, books can be bought and scanned/typed in/whatever and distributed 10 or 20 at a time.

          My son goes to a school where they custom design his curriculum. They have four people on staff who make the monthly work for every student(2-3 inch thick binder every month). There are no textbooks - it's all based upon the student and their capacity to learn.

          I've seen this sort of thing in practice and it works - as well as saves enormous amount of money. Just OLPC makes it electronic for
      • >I still can't shake the feeling that this entire OLPC project is an enormous waste of money, intended more to assuage misplaced Western guilt than to bring about any fundamental change in impoverished areas.

        While Western folk who may be experiencing guilt may contribute to this project (perhaps quite handily). There is an iso-standard heap of people who are not guilt driven, and are contributing.

        This computer will be the Apple IIe, and the C64, AND the Amiga 500 for two entire continents of people. If
    • OLPC is not a laptop project, it is an educational project

      If Nicholas Negroponte and the rest of the OLPC team didn't want people to think of their project as a laptop project, perhaps naming it "One LAPTOP Per Child" was a poor choice.

      the software and the content [are] more important than the hardware

      I think it's too early to say which is more important. Sugar looks to me to be the most innovative and intuitive UI to be introduced in a long long time, but I can't tell whether it will ever find popularity
  • OLPC not a success (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:34AM (#21908360) Homepage Journal
    In November, after the promised high-volume sales to governments failed to materialize, the organization began a $399 "Give 1, Get 1" promotion, in which people could buy XO machines and subsidize gifts to educational programs. O.L.P.C. said it distributed about 50,000 computers in the United States during the promotion.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/04/technology/04laptop.html?ref=business [nytimes.com]

    I don't see a problem with Intel moving on, they were trying to push their technology but weren't ready (too much power consumption with their proposal). I do see a problem with the OLPC process apparently not working out and little being done to expose this. If more people knew about it perhaps some would step up and buy the machines.
    • by Pecisk ( 688001 )
      There was some Slashdot article which informed that "G1G1" was colosal success. They finished it just because they don't have infrastructure and resources for this, but nevertheless, in aprox. 2 months they sold enormous count of boxes.

      Could be this continued? Definitely. They just need resources to manage that.

      OLPC final version was just released and I bet lot of countries look at first adopters to decide later. So calling OLPC not a success is too soon, I think.

      For me, they already succeeded to prove that
      • by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:29AM (#21908828) Homepage Journal

        2 months they sold enormous count of boxes.

        According to GP-posting, they sold only 50000 boxes. Even if the profit-margin was a whopping $100 on each, that's only $5mln — or barely enough to pay decent salaries/bonuses to top 10 executives for one year. The more likely margin was, of course, in single-digits (10 times less), and the people involved were in it for much more longer than one year...

        Could be this continued? Definitely. They just need resources to manage that. [emphasis mine -mi]

        Right. A famous excuse for every failing idea.

        How it will end, depends not only on OLPC team, but more or less insight in governments around the world.

        Excellent. Tax the citizens, milk the donors — a Socialist's dream.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Pecisk ( 688001 )
          According to news [gadgetell.com], 150 000 would be more correct number.

          But nice try buddy to paint everyone who wants to solve world problems without involving big fat corporations a Socialist. As Linus said, that if Socialist means to do good things to people, then yeah, we are Socialists.
          • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @12:28PM (#21910286) Journal
            You do understand the difference in doing good things and taxing people or somehow demanding a payment from them and then doing what you think is a good thing right?

            There is a problem with counties spending the citizens money for what you perceive as a good thing verses you spending your own money on what you perceive as a good thing. The Linus quote was addressing how he cares little about the names being thrown out. Not that he endorses socialism. I'm not aware of any time Linus took tax payer money as a condition of giving Linux away.

            Please don't confuse the subject or act like you don't know the difference. You doing something with your own money is noble. You forcing a nation to do the same thing by collecting taxes under the presumption of pain of imprisonment is somewhat a bad thing. Not always but outside of Fire, Safe drinking water and effective security, you know, basic governmental infrastructure, it is generally not good.
    • by mi ( 197448 )

      I do see a problem with the OLPC process apparently not working out

      It could not be working out for the same reasons, these guys [slashdot.org] failed [wired.com] — they are/were trying to work against a fundamental law of nature.

      Steorn tried to violate the laws of Thermodynamics. OLPC is trying to compete for talent with the vibrant economy, that offers enormous rewards to hardworking smart people...

      Yes, a project can capture such people's time and attention by appealing to their charitable side. And they will work for no

  • by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:35AM (#21908362)
    Hey I use Intel processors but their behavior has been largely disappointing. Joining OLPC no looks like an attempt to avoid bad press. Now that they're leaving one has to wonder if they just weren't getting their way. The whole mess with the Classmate just makes them look like...well...Microsoft.

  • It's a blow? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pecisk ( 688001 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:35AM (#21908364)
    Honestly, it is much better for OLPC that Intel is open about their intends than just allowing them to party and doing nothing, while acting against OLPC.

    Just my two cents,
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by autophile ( 640621 )

      It's not that Intel was open with their intentions, and so kudos to Intel. OLPC didn't trust Intel. OLPC told Intel that they could join up IF AND ONLY IF Intel dropped their competing product, thus removing Intel's temptation to screw OLPC over. If Intel's intentions were truly evil, they had just been exposed. Intel refused to give up their own effort, thus signaling to OLPC that it would have gotten intentionally or unintentionally poor support. OLPC did the smart thing here, not Intel.


  • I was sure there was tons of money to be made from the poorest of the poor!

    Are you telling me this isn't true?
    • by Marcion ( 876801 )
      It is true.

      Do rich people drink coke and eat cheap hamburgers?
    • Many international marketers are focusing on third world countries. I would think logically that this would be a bad idea profit wise but many third world countries have a middle class or an upper class that would be similiar to our lower middle class. Coke and McDonalds have made quite a bit of money in these countries though the top third is the only part that can afford them now.

      THe governments are the main customers and I think opening up internet to the world is the same as improving infastructure whic
  • by xzvf ( 924443 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:38AM (#21908388)
    While I don't think at any level that the XO project is a failure or doomed because of the recent news, it is allowing its idealism to overwhelm its idea. OLPC inadvertently created or tapped a market for small inexpensive laptops that had a lot of pent up demand in developed nations. Because their focus is on education, charity and the government of poor countries (the only people with money there), they didn't realize their product is valuable. This might be the time to step back from the visible hardware side and push the real innovation of the XO project. A lightweight, but extremely functional educational OS, and make sure that gets ported to as many platforms as possible.
  • Just Appalling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by filbranden ( 1168407 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:42AM (#21908428)

    Well, the article is Intel's version of the break. I think that if Negroponte really required Intel to drop the Classmate, it would have been too naive from him. It's almost as if he wanted to pick a fight with Intel and then tell the world that it's Intel's fault and that Intel doesn't want to play ball.

    I think OLPC is a great idea, a great project and great technology, but this one didn't look that good for them (at least from the article, which is Intel's point of view, maybe the whole story is a little different, we'll know).

    OLPC should try and use the best possible technology to produce the best laptop for the least possible cost. Considering that Intel has been doing lots of advances in cheap mobile power-saving chips, excluding Intel is not a good idea for the OLPC project. With the size of Intel, they are not losing that much by losing the OLPC project comparing to how much OLPC will be losing without Intel's support.

    I agree that Intel was not being that clean with OLPC by having their competition project the Classmate, but even then, Negroponte should have been more diplomatic on this issue (again, the article is Intel's version, maybe it didn't happen just like that).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      Negroponte is an egotistical prick and this whole thing was just a way for him to celebrate himself. I've been saying this [slashdot.org] since I first saw that 60 Minutes interview, and every time I say it I get attacked with some "No, Negroponte just wants to help the kids. Intel are the real bad guys for daring to challenge this noble hero" crap. But I knew time would show him for what he really was.
  • by gvc ( 167165 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:43AM (#21908434)
    Why is Intel's departure a blow? Why is a non-competition agreement such an unreasonable thing to expect of a partner? I daresay OLPC's take (which has not yet been stated in the media) is that Intel was helping themselves to inside information and offering little in return.

    It would have been nice if Intel and OLPC could have come up with an arrangement to differentiate themselves in the developing world market, but it didn't work out. So they go it alone. The computers are quite different, the OLPC being designed from the ground up for its purpose, the Classmate and friends being crippled conventional laptops.

    And whether or not Intel and friends manage to kill OLPC, they wouldn't have had a dog in the race at all if not for OLPC.
  • Collectors items (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrjb ( 547783 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:45AM (#21908446)
    They are rapidly becoming collectors items. On Ebay they're already selling for over $400. For ONE unit, that is.
    Great business model.

    1. Buy two laptops for $200
    2. Give one to charity
    3. Sell the other one for $400
    4. Profit!
    • Faulty math (Score:3, Insightful)

      Sell one for $400, that's called breaking even since you paid $400 and only recieved one machine. Also I'm assuming you paid shipping for the one unit so you lost money at $400. I guess you could try buying a 100 machines and make it up in volume but that never seems to work for some strange reason.
    • Re:Collectors items (Score:5, Informative)

      by shirai ( 42309 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:55AM (#21908534) Homepage
      Interesting, except that it's one laptop for $200 and two laptops for $400.

      You can still profit but its more like:

      1. Buy two laptops for $400
      2. Give one to charity
      3. Sell one for $400
      4. Break even on cash
      5. Get a $200 charity tax receipt

      Your net up is a tax receipt which has value which varies depending on how much you pay in taxes.
      • Your net up is a tax receipt which has value which varies depending on how much you pay in taxes.

        Good thinking over all, but it's your marginal tax rate not how much you pay. So if you are a middle or upper class working stiff who actually produces the goods and services which drive our economy (marginal tax rates of > 25%), you actually for once stand to make out 'better' than someone with an income driven by capital gains (flat tax of 15%). Of course, an accountant with a sharp pencil might tell you to claim the profit as income.

    • Remember the Apex DVD player that you could bypass macrovision and region codes with? That's exactly what I did. Managed to buy two, sold one for over 2x what I paid for it. Profit, plus I got to keep one :)
    • If they eBay for $400, an even better business model would be:
      1) Buy a bunch of $200 OLPC laptops
      2) eBay them all for ~$400
      3) more profits

      OLPC should simply make its laptops available to the general public for $250-300 and use the extra profit margin to subsidize its give-away/discounted laptops in the target charity markets. This would reduce the number of machines bought/received on charity and resold on eBay for profit while also reducing profit margins on that scheme.

      OLPC is doing a disservice to itself
  • by 16K Ram Pack ( 690082 ) <`tim.almond' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday January 04, 2008 @09:47AM (#21908472) Homepage
    It's yet another cranky decision by the people at the OLPC. Intel to not work on other competing projects? Are they kidding? No company is going to agree that and bet on a single project at this early stage in the development of such projects.

    Competition is good. The more different players in this market, the better. Because more innovation will deliver lower costs, and products closest to what people want. If the people at the OLPC care most about getting computing power to the people in developing countries, they'd welcome that,not try and stop it.

    The OLPC people just don't get the real world. They closed their "buy one give one" despite that giving free laptops to the sort of people that they claim to be serving.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by R2.0 ( 532027 )
      I think they are afraid of the following scenario:

      1) OLPC board discusses sales prospects in new countries.
      2) Intel rep to OLPC calls home.
      3) Intel parachutes into the prospects, hijacking the groundwork done bu the OLPC team to sell the Classmate instead.
      4) Profit.

      Farfetched? I don't think so.
  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:01AM (#21908588) Homepage
    I don't see how any of this makes much difference.

    I have an XO laptop, and it seems pretty clear at this point that the existing XO can do, technologically, what it's supposed to do. The hardware tradeoffs were very clever, very well thought out, and they seem to be manufacturing it successfully in quantity. I'm assuming that some teething pains and glitches, which are no worse that typical commercial products at first release, can be dealt with.

    I'm not the intended audience for the software. I don't particularly like the Sugar UI, and can't judge how much is just because I just don't "get it" and how much is because I've been brainwashed by two decades of the Mac and Windows. It seems to me that the software has rather a lot of rough edges. But it doesn't matter. It's perfectly clear that the thing works, and is more than capable of being used in classrooms. The browser works, the Alto/Star/1984-Mac write and paint programs work, the PDF viewer works, the wireless access works.

    The collaboration and social-networking stuff seems to sorta-kinda work. I have some reservations, but it's there, and there's nothing comparable built into Windows or standard Linux today.

    It doesn't matter whether Intel throws a hissy-fit and stomps out or not. Nor does it matter that their hardware designer left: she completed her work and it was good work.

    If their education premises are correct, this device is good enough to fulfill them.

    And the XOs not comparable to anything anyone can do in the way of building a cheap Windows laptop. The XO has carved out a very distinct, very new, very innovative niche in product space. Nobody is going to be able to make the equivalent of an XO just by taking a standard Wintel laptop and paring down the OS and replacing the disk drive with 1, no, 2, no, 4, no 8 GB of flash, and adding a Windows version of TamTamJam.

    If an Intel and/or a Microsoft truly signs on to the OLPC's education premises and puts in an equivalent amount of work producing something as good, as cheap, and as good a fit to the same product space, they might be able to trample OLPC but OLPC's goals could still be achieved. However, the likelihood of Intel and Microsoft doing this is about the same as the likelihood of GM producing a two-wheeled, pedal-powered Hummer that costs $139 and is suitable for a ten-year-old kid.

    • by samkass ( 174571 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:39AM (#21908948) Homepage Journal
      There are a lot of comparisons between the XO and the old Apple eMate from the 90's. Even some blow-by-blow comparison reviews. I'm a little skeptical that if Apple, given its existing educational relationships and market, couldn't pull it off that the XO can. And while the eMate costed $800, it was also marketed at first-world schools. Compared to annual salary, the $200 XO is vastly more expensive to a third-world buyer than an eMate was to an American.
      • Interesting... I've owned Macs since 1984 but haven't paid much attention to what they were doing in educational space. Except to admire the charcoal -grey Bell and Howell Apple ]['s my son used in elementary school, of course...
    • by glop ( 181086 )
      The way I see it the OLPC is a huge success. Not because they have achieved all their goals but because they have already changed the world. They have set a benchmark, shown the way which resulted in:
      - Asus doing the EEE PC (299$ for the cheapest one. Sucks more juice, the screen is not as good in sunlight etc. But still, it owes its existence to the OLPC)
      - Microsoft is busy porting XP to the OLPC and trying to improve their offer for developing countries and education
      - many people h
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I participated in the give-one-get-one program and got one of these for my kids (6 and 8). I literally pulled it out of the box, put in the batteries, showed them where to plug in the power cord, and have not touched it since. Two days after getting it, my six year old had written multiple stories and was browsing the web easily enough that I'll need to think about watching where they go browsing. She'd also figured out how to use the microphone and the camera software and was using them somewhat ... cre
      • I'm glad to hear this. I don't want to press you on this, but just how literally true is it that you didn't give them any instruction? Are you sure you didn't give them a hint or a tip from time to time... or go online into the OLPC site to their user's guide in order to figure out the Journal, Neighborhood, Home keys did and stuff like that?

        I interpret what you said to mean that they were able to guess or discover the meaning of the icons for the browser, word processor and start using them without help.

  • by John Sokol ( 109591 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:04AM (#21908608) Homepage Journal
    Arm has made some incredible strides towards standardization and multi vendors. There as so many cheap reference boards these days.

    Most arm chips are made with Cell phones in mind as well, some support MMX and Jazelle Java extensions.
    Many have Micron CMOS camera chip interfaces and built in LCD drivers, and a mess of GPIO and MMC etc.

    Linux and Uboot are a sweet combination on them also.

    Look at PXA270 and PXA300 from Marvell & Blackfin (uC Linux)
    Also ARM is licensing there chip design for 8 Cents a copy, so you can easily make a ASIC based on arm.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_architecture [wikipedia.org]

    Also another option is that there is already $5 computers in China and India. There not laptops and you need to connect them into a TV but still they have Keyboard, Mice, Game joysticks and 100's of pirated games on them. Even ones that can web surf. these are from a Chinese company called Gold Leopard King, but they are impossible to track down and contact, but the markets there are flooded with them.

    http://ultimateconsoledatabase.com/famiclones/gold_leopard_king.htm [ultimateco...tabase.com]
    The whole computer is just passive switches, and there is only one Chip in the entire PC, it's in the cartridge. Amazing thing, Perfect copies of Mario Brothers, Pac-man, Donkey Kong, Defender, Galaga, Dig Dug. I always get one for the kids when were in India, and just give it away when we leave, it's PAL video out, so we can't use it back in the USA.

  • At my old job, we develop industrial test equipment(actually a cooling solution for current equipment) for AMD and Intel. Well as a startup we got in trouble because my bosses were asses. So Intel funded us a bunch of money and encourage us to sell the company to one of their buddies in the test equipment business. We shopped the startup around to various companies but then all of a sudden Intel and this other company(both were "observers" on our board) resigned one day. The following weeks we were "forc
  • by Churla ( 936633 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @10:15AM (#21908704)
    I don't see how on this site where the mantra for all things seems to be "competition is good" that Intel should be bashed for not giving in to demands that it not develop products which could be considered alternatives.

    It isn't like Intel is going to throw down the humanitarian angle of OLPC anyways, and I thought one of the selling points to companies participating in the project was that advances there could be incorporated into retail devices as well?

    If I'm wrong on this please correct me.
    • by Improv ( 2467 )
      Competition with your partners, when investment in productiuon and similar are involved, is a bit different from competition in general...
  • The problem I see with the OLPC initiative is that they are restricting themselves into near certain failure. The Asus Eee has shown that there is a decent market for a product like OLPC offers, mass production would just bring the costs down. Competition in the form of Classmate and other similar products would benefit the goals of OLPC as technology could have funneled down to it. The B2G1 program was a good start but even that was limited by country and time making it a near pointless effort. What co
  • by hajo ( 74449 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @11:51AM (#21909762) Homepage
    Was one of the first to get one. Comments:
    It is low powered; booting up takes a while; loading rpograms takes a while. Once up and running it's fine.
    I don't like the window manager; The frame that pops up is annoying. I would do a skinny drop down of running apps when hitting the top-left corner, a list of available apps at top right corner etc... or something like that
    I HATE the journal as a file manager. This is the first 'activity' that needs to be replaced.
    The programming games are fun. My kids LOVE the logo like activity the best.
    Some of the software doesn't play well together.
    The documentation that comes with it is dramatically subpar. You really need to go to their faq to make any use of the machine. One of the issues with that is that some of the faq info (particularly abvout commecting to a network is not available to you before you are online...)
    (At least include a pdf with the latest version of the wiki and faq on it.)
    The battery life is very good. (This is before an expected update of the system software; particularly power saving features) early 2008)
    It is rugged; wifi reception is better than my Macbbok pro. Too bad you can't connect a cantenna easily that way one of these could bridge a few miles and the rest of the laptops could mesh network with it.
    I bought the laptop to do some good and mess around with it.
    I'll probably use this laptop on my boat (Will compare it to my toughbook; It's definitely a lot lighter!)
    Over all I think it's a success.

    • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @12:05PM (#21909948) Homepage
      I agree with all of your judgments, and am relieved to see I'm not alone.

      The UI is not awful, and is good enough, and it was probably correct to think it through from scratch instead of trying to riff on the Alto/Star/Lisa/Mac/Windows. But it still tastes to me like other not-so-good UIs, in which the designer and people that can be coaxed into the same mindspace can be convinced that it's better than it is.

      I read the human interface guidelines [laptop.org] and I'm not convinced. I've often talked to people who have believed their UI was easy to use because "you always do thus-and-such to achieve this-and-that, and the frammises are always on the left edge, and you ferthboinder toward the top to glorp persistent quibinicks..."

      One of the things that was fascinating about the Mac in 1984, which I approached with virtually no previous experience, was that you could intuit it and use it without ever formulating or deducing the consistent left-brained rules by which it operated. For about three days I used it effectively without understanding it at all. I wanted to achieve something, I took a wild guess as to what might work, and it usually did.

      I don't feel that way about Sugar, although maybe my brain has just ossified.

      If the Journal functioned the way it's supposed to, I don't understand why it, rather than the "home view," isn't the center of the user experience, and the thing you boot into. Seems to me that you'd more often be returning to an old activity than starting a new one.

      I "get" the idea of a linear, chronological arrangement of activities rather than a hierarchical tree of documents, but I don't understand how you navigate that arrangement unless you are punctilious about giving each saved activity a good name, and clever at naming them in such a way that you can search for them by typing search strings (which I think only search the name of the journal entry, not the content of the saved activity).
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @12:17PM (#21910116)
    It screams "toy" all over, like PC Jr.
    The functionality is similar to iPod Touch at 2/3rds the price. If Apple puts this in a larger screen, say an iTablet Touch- that could be a competitor.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by repetty ( 260322 )
      Think this through....

      You propose giving poor African, South American, and Asian kids big beautiful glass and polished stainless steel laptops and then send them walking home from school -- maybe a three to five mile walk?

      They'd get fucking killed. They'd get mugged and every one of those things would be stolen.

      It's for kids. Little kids. It should look like it for no other reason than to just keeping these kids safer.

  • a blow to OLPC? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @01:00PM (#21910694)
    This is the same Intel that was going around the world spread FUD about the OLPC project and targetting OLPC customers. Their marketing was more smoke and mirrors than based on reality and the whole ClassmatePC project was started as competition to OLPC. Wow, that's a company we should all just love when they do an about-face and join the OLPC board.

    IMO, the only blow to OLPC is that they'll start with the FUD again since I don't think OLPC really needs Intel's chips.

    And the CTO leaving to start her own commercial business around the OLPC LCD tech is not a blow either. She helped them get to where they are today and that is in production baby. The OLPC project is not going to follow the Microsoft Windows business model of replacement every 2 or so years and probably has a good 5 years life in the current design. Why do they need her position/experience any more when keeping startup costs low is the goal now. Especially since Intel and Microsoft have both helped delay orders and therefore income. OLPC needs to be lean and mean IMO.

    Anybody reading this as bad news is just helping spread FUD about the project. IMO.

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Friday January 04, 2008 @05:15PM (#21914786) Homepage
    The strategy:
    http://www.nten.org/sites/nten/files/Sustainable%20Computing_0.pdf [nten.org]

    Seminar about it:
    http://www.nten.org/events/webinar/2006/04/21/sustainable-computing-for-developing-countries [nten.org]

    Summary: Intel's "Emerging Market Platform Group" details several computers they've developed that are targeted at the poor in various ways: small laptops, cybercafe machines, school machines, etc.

    The document dates to 2005. Intel did not discover this market because of the OLPC project, they have been pursuing it for years. Education is just one of the markets they are pursuing in the developing world. OLPC is obviously in the way of the education area marketing strategy, and so they tried undercutting them, then joining them, and now they're back to undercutting again.

    The ethical concern here is not competition per se - its that private companies can "market" in ways that a non-profit project cannot: ways that involve special forms of "persuasion" for the purchasing bureaucrats of developing nation's educational institutions. It's not about the poor buying either product directly, it's about their public servants picking one product over another based on, ah, marketing techniques, rather than measurable cost/benefit ratios.

    $239/$188 = 27% higher. If the Classmate lasts 27% longer than the OLPC in field conditions, or delivers 27% more educational value in some way, well and good. But I haven't seen that independent study. I suspect, neither have the department heads that have picked it. Indeed, I kind of suspect they've seen a highly-biased, very slick presentation, while lunching on chicken cordon bleu.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @12:40AM (#21919360)
    "The Economist" doesn't pull its punches:

    OLPC's problems, which can be distilled into four main areas, risk turning a wonderful idea into a plastic paperweight.

    In their zeal to rewrite the rules of computing for first-time users, OLPC shipped machines with a cumbersome operating system. For example, adding Flash to do something like watch a YouTube video requires users to go into a terminal line-code and type a long internet address to download the software: it seems impossible to cut-and-paste the address. ... OLPC tried to reinvent the wheel and came up with an oval.

    Second, the go-to-market execution...was imperfect. There was a lack of documentation, support and methods to integrate the PCs into school curricula, teacher training, and the like. OLPC seemed to think that just by handing out laptops, everything would sort itself out...The consumer is not the nine-year-old user with infinite time on her hands, but a government bureaucrat who has to evaluate the machines relative to other options.

    That leads to the third problem. Since the project launched in 2005, commercial rivals have emerged: Intel's "Classmate" at around $250; Acer's laptop at $350...There are many more...All computer buyers will have to compare the XP to a lot of other products in the market--something that never seemed to have struck OLPC's staffers as a possibility, but should have.

    This leads to the final problem that has done the most to disappoint OLPC's fans: the hubris, arrogance and occasional self-righteousness of OLPC workers. They treated all criticism as enemy fire to be deflected and quashed rather than considered and possibly taken on board. Overcoming this will be essential if the project is to succeed past its first release. Technology products improve based on user feedback. The OLPC staff will need to learn to listen to the candid criticism of outsiders for the second-generation of the laptop--or they do not deserve to build one.

    Ultimately the OLPC initiative will be remembered less for what it produced than the products it spawned. The initiative is like running the four-minute mile: no one could do it, until someone actually did it. Then many people did. ... Mr Negroponte's vision for a $100 laptop was not the right computer, only the right price. Like many pioneers, he laid a path for others to follow.

    One clunky laptop per child. [economist.com]

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun