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.

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Comments on “OLPC Looks More And More Like A Normal Technology Company”

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Tim Perry says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

linda says:

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.

estb (profile) says:


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

zcat says:

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..

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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