Intel walks out of OLPC project
Short-lived love-in ends
The controversial One Laptop Per Child project, which aims to provide children in the developing world with access to $100 laptops, has fallen out with Intel.
Although machines shipping now - to Libya, Brazil, Argentina and Thailand - are based on AMD chips, the OLPC was in talks to base a future version of the laptop on Intel processors.
Intel said OLPC visionary Nicholas Negroponte put pressure on the company to end sales of its Classmate laptop - a machine aimed at the same market as OLPC's XO laptop. Intel resigned its seat on the board after refusing this request.
Intel confirmed to reporters that it had left the project, but refused to give details. OLPC president Walter Bender said the row was not just about Classmate laptops. He said relations broke down because of "a complete lack of cooperation by Intel on software, learning etc", according to IDG. He accused Intel of treating the project as just another market.
Intel only joined the project in July 2007 and relations before that were frosty. In May 2007, Negroponte said the chip giant should be ashamed of itself for selling its Classmate machine for less than it cost to make in order to undermine OLPC's XO machine.
OLPC has struggled to control the total cost of its machine, which is now creeping towards $200. ®
Why not be grateful for Intel's Classmate
The reason Nick is concerned about Intel undermining OLPC is at least twofold.
The Classmate is essentially a sales job not a marketing job. As many have commented it's the redelivery of a tired old everywhere-is-an-office computing metaphor. So the kids aren't getting the benefit of the OLPC philosophy - designed FOR kids, and to ENABLE them by opening up every level of the system to their own creativity. These devices are not equivalent.
Takeup of OLPC in a host country typically depends upon government buy-in. This is required to facilitate integration with the education system, and where necessary, to pay the price tag for the hundreds of thousands of machines the kids need. If Intel's using its capital muscle to force takeup of the classmate by artificially reduced prices this probably excludes the OLPC from being acquired by that host country altogether. Intel's not offering additional devices, it's displacing devices.
Books rot in the tropics
I'm tired of people prattling on about giving people laptops before libraries - to maintain books in readable condition in many countries in tropical regions you have to keep them in air-conditioning.
A sealed, solid-state laptop is a portable library that can survive humidity, 'nuff said.
As far as the design quality of the hardware and software, b shubin said it best.
I thought Bender said "bite my shiny metal OLPC" or something like that. I guess he's getting old. :-)
I don't know what Intel expected.
They're late to the party and offering computer bits that are already covered by other members. Retooling right now is not going to happen and there isn't going to be a set of second tier specs, either. So, their presence was largely a waste of time for all parties involved and largely redundant to boot.
This is how Intel planned it
I think many people are misunderstanding the situation. Do you really think that Intel was trying to be helpful? Blaming Negroponte is a red herring. Intel planned to quit the project before the show in Las Vegas otherwise they would have come up with a competetive solution and not a more expensive and power hungry chip. Don't tell me they didn't understand the design criteria. They've got the technical ability, but instead they decided to put their talents elsewhere.