OLPC Looks More And More Like A Normal Technology Company

from the and-thats-a-good-thing dept

The One Laptop Per Child project has announced that its Chief Technology Officer, Mary Lou Jepsen, is leaving the project to focus on commercializing the display technology she developed as part of the OLPC project. Computerworld describes this as a "blow" to the OLPC project, but I don't think that's necessarily true. It's hard to say without an insider's perspective, but it may be that this is just a natural development for an organization that's transitioning from a (non-profit) tech startup to a more mature technology organization. Traditional for-profit startups often see some of their early technologists leave the firm once the initial technology-development phase is completed. The skills required to develop cutting-edge technology are different from the skills needed to run a large technology company, and so people who don't want to do the latter often leave companies once they're off the ground. What I think this does illustrate, though, is that despite large differences in rhetoric, there's not that much difference between a non-profit technology organization and a for-profit technology company. Both are trying to develop cutting-edge technologies that will be useful to a lot of people. Both face challenges with holding down costs and finding the right market. As I've said before, OLPC might be more successful if it thought more like a technology company, looking for paying customers and ways to cut costs. Having former employees commercializing OLPC-based technologies can only help nudge the organization in the right direction.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Tim Perry, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 3:52pm

    A Bigger Problem (I know, it's a little off topic)

    You know the way I see this One Laptop per Child this is this: I think it's more important to have a program called One Carrot per Child...so they can eat. One should focus these resources to solving world hunger, which should not be too hard with the current bio-technology. The obstacle would be to implement these technologies in the third world countries. Some think that these technologies are dangerous despite the battery of tests they are subjected to before being used as a commercial crop.

    Once we solve this problem, then we'll talk about giving them computers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 4:12pm

    Re: A Bigger Problem (I know, it's a little off to

    This is for nations that aren't actually starving but needed infrastructure and education to grow into a wealthy and prosperous nation.


    With more wealthy nations, we will have more resources to help out with humanitarian aid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 5:17pm

    Just got my olpc machine. The T-Mobile offer is not advertised (despite being promised). Got the URL by searching online and offer not valid. Seems other people similarly affected. Notification of shipment not sent out and no order number. If this company is trying to go mainstream they need to sort out their customer interactions and partner programs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    linda, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 5:44pm

    Re: T Mobile offer w/OLPC

    I just successfully signed up for the T-Mobile service offered with the OLPC program. I received my shipping notification email 4 days after my laptop arrived. (I am attributing the fast delivery to holiday staffing of the delivery company.) That email had a reference number which I entered at the T Mobile site. T-Mobile then assigned a pin and activated my account. I imagine your email will arrive soon and you'll have no problem signing up. I've had the laptop for a couple of weeks now and it is quite a conversation piece when I use it in public spaces.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Linda, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 5:49pm

    Re: A Bigger Problem (I know, it's a little off to

    I think the problem can be approached from multiple directions at the same time . . . as in . . . You can feed a man or teach a man to fish . . . both are attempts to make the world a better place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Kenneth, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Re: A Bigger Problem (I know, it's a little of

    This is for nations that aren't actually starving but needed infrastructure and education to grow into a wealthy and prosperous nation.

    Not according to the OLPC folks. There are places in the US like that but they don't qualify for the OLPC program.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 6:11pm

    Re: Re: A Bigger Problem (I know, it's a little of

    This is for nations that aren't actually starving but needed infrastructure and education to grow into a wealthy and prosperous nation.
    Oh really? Can you tell us exactly which nations OLPC has banned from the program for being too poor?

    I didn't think so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Betty, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 6:27pm

    Re: Re: A Bigger Problem (I know, it's a little of

    You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach him to fish so he can waste his days going fishing instead of going to work.

    That might apply here. How many of these kids would be better off doing something other than playing with some toy-like laptop?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    estb, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 7:04pm

    malthus

    On the topic of one carrot per child, look up how food production actually works nowadays, the problem is NOT the gross amount of food produced but shipping problems. At a greater level many of the issues are the economic structuring, many nations with starving populations are exporters of foodstuffs. Further on the line of logic of 'just give them food' no amount of effort along that line can really be successful due to simple Malthusian mathematics, its physically impossible to make enough food to solve the problem in the long term without changing the fundamental situation; this is most clearly done (by my research) by education and micro-loan programs (with a distant 3rd being debt forgiveness). If fertility as well as the ability to generate income the hunger problem solves itself. Further comments can be sent to westb3@gmail.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    zcat, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 7:24pm

    Replace 'laptop' with 'education'

    We have friends in Zambia teaching Aids awareness..

    There's a lot of adults and children dying every day, orphaned children on the streets over there because people just don't understand how AIDS is transmitted, or how easily it can be prevented. They don't understand that a person can be HIV positive for years and not show any symptoms. They don't know, because nobody has ever told them.

    People are dying every day in Zambia and many other countries not through lack of food, but almost purely through lack of education.

    One family of volunteers can only reach so much of the population, and right now they're teaching almost nothing but AIDS awareness because that's the biggest and most immediate problem. One Laptop Per Child can start teaching a whole new generation about preventing AIDS and other epidemics, about how to drill a well and get safe drinking water, about sustainable farming, and who knows what else..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 11:14pm

    Re: Replace 'laptop' with 'education'

    One Laptop Per Child can start teaching a whole new generation about preventing AIDS and other epidemics, about how to drill a well and get safe drinking water, about sustainable farming, and who knows what else..

    So can books, and a whole lot less expensively. That leaves money left over to actually drill that well and plant that crop.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Tim Perry, Jan 2nd, 2008 @ 11:22pm

    Re: Re: A Bigger Problem (I know, it's a little of

    So we need to teach them how to farm? That's easy, they know how to farm, the problem is they don't have the right resources to farm enough.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This