Intel dumps OLPC, Negroponte loses it

By   |  January 6, 2008

There are numerous news reports covering Intel’s withdrawal from the One Laptop Per Child project. The company says it decided to leave the OLPC board because the One Laptop organisation had demanded it stop supporting other efforts in emerging markets. Of course what the OLPC board was specifically referring to was Intel’s Classmate, a laptop for developing markets launched in 2006.

However, infuriated by news reports of Intel’s move, OLPC head Nicholas Negroponte has lashed out at the company accusing them of being self-serving and undermining the OLPC programme. In one interview he told Fortune:

We’re like the World Food Program and they’re McDonald’s. They can’t compete. They are both food organizations but for completely different purposes.

And, of course, he is right. Intel does indeed have a competing device in the Classmate. And Intel is very likely milking its involvement with the One Laptop project for feel-good publicity. But this is a giant corporation; they are not accustomed to doing things without ensuring there is good media mileage to be made out of it.

Having said that, Negroponte is doing OLPC little good by being petulant. Ultimately, the goal of the project is to deliver low-cost PCs to the kids of the developing world. Insisting that he is the holder of the “one true way” to achieve this is just silly.

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4 Responses to “Intel dumps OLPC, Negroponte loses it”

  1. jefferz
    January 8th, 2008 @ 10:30 pm

    “petulance” is insolent or rude behavior, or capricious ill humor. i don’t see any of these in the fortune mag interview with negroponte. also, perhaps you’ve mistaken negroponte’s analogy. he’s not saying they DO compete. he’s saying they DON’T. the needs being filled by the XO are different than the needs being filled by the Classmate. therefore, they should NOT be in competition, and therefore are NOT a threat to each other. (i.e., Intel should be able to be in favor of *both*).

    also, Negroponte is simply telling his side of the story: saying that OLPC had a signed agreement with Intel to do many things, and a) Intel did not complete ***a single one*** of these things, and b) all the while Intel was going out and actually badmouthing the XO to its clients — which the OLPC project only found out about because one of their clients — the vice minister of education in Peru — couldn’t believe the audacity of Intel’s doing this when they themselves sat on the board of the OLPC.

  2. jefferz
    January 8th, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

    by the way, i should add that i think you’ve also misunderstood Negroponte’s intentions when you say that “Ultimately, the goal of the project is to deliver low-cost PCs to the kids of the developing world. Insisting that he is the holder of the “one true way” to achieve this is just silly.”

    i don’t see Negroponte insisting that the XO is the one-true-way anywhere in the Fortune interview. In fact, if you look at the rest of the paragraph you partially quoted, he says quite the opposite:

    “We’re like the World Food Program and they’re McDonald’s. They can’t compete. They are both food organizations but for completely different purposes. If the Classmate were in the hands of every single child in the world, that would be pretty good. Could it have better power charcteristics, a better display, etc.? Sure, that would be good. But I don’t care if kids get the XO so much as that they get laptops.”

    thus, Negroponte agrees with you on the ultimate goal of the project.

  3. The OLPC and Intel Partnership Collapse - AfricanLoft
    January 11th, 2008 @ 11:00 am

    [...] ‘OLPC head Nicholas Negroponte has lashed out at the company accusing them of being self-serving and undermining the OLPC programme.’ (source) [...]

  4. Rob
    January 21st, 2008 @ 7:52 pm

    Dear Alastair,

    You are correct. For additional information refer to: http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php?board=2.0

    Shame that such a good idea is being derailed by mis-management and hubris.

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