OLPC And Intel Split Over Friction From Competing Laptop

from the sore-losers dept

Last year, after a very public spat with Intel over its competing Classmate PC, the One Laptop Per Child project appeared to patch up its differences with Intel and welcome them as a supporter. Now, they've had a nasty breakup, with each blaming the other for the separation. Intel said OLPC had demanded it stop selling the Classmate PC as a condition of continuing as a supporter of the OLPC project. OLPC head Nicolas Negroponte countered that Intel had "contributed nothing of value" to the OLPC project in the last six months. Negroponte's claims don't make a lot of sense. If Intel had merely failed to contribute resources to the project, that would hardly justify such a public and acrimonious split. The only other complaint, that Intel "continued to disparage" OLPC's product after joining the project, suggests that Negroponte is tacitly conceding that Intel's Classmate PC was the real sore point. As we said last year, this seems like a case of sour grapes on Negroponte's case. It's ridiculous to think that in a world with hundreds of millions of poor children there should only be one low-cost laptop design. Giving governments in developing countries more options can only be a good thing for poor kids. Negroponte sniffs that "we view the children as a mission; Intel views them as a market." But if Intel is able to provide developing countries with a better laptop at a lower price—and turn a profit in the process—what's wrong with that? Losing those sales might bruise Negroponte's ego, but it's hard to see how it's bad for the kids whose interests Negroponte claims to champion.

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Companies: intel, olpc

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Comments on “OLPC And Intel Split Over Friction From Competing Laptop”

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30 Comments
matt says:

fairly accurate

actually I’ve seen a number of places say that the issue was when Intel was trying to negotiate to get the classmate in some South American country….where Intel was competing with the XO and the salesperson provided disparaging remarks that were conflicting with Intel’s attempt to be part of the XO program. Not to mention the previous Microsoft bribe to use XO’s in what…what was it, South Africa? Or somewhere in the southern or eastern part of africa. Not to mention Microsoft having a part in the company that is suing in Nigeria – the keyboard thing (compare address to Microsoft’s office there – the same – what a coincidence!).

So yes, intel + MS on this one, suprise suprise (not really). Of course its kinda hard to compete with a laptop that can do with never being plugged into an outlet versus a classmate or any other mini or portable pc, period.

Ven'Tatsu says:

“But if Intel is able to provide developing countries with a better laptop at a lower price—and turn a profit in the process—what’s wrong with that?”

That question makes an awful big assumption. Since when has turning a profit been required for a move to be strategically beneficial? Intel could be taking a loss on ever Classmate PC simply because it denies their competitors from creating a new market to sell products into. Intel’s record isn’t exactly spotless in regards to the methods it has used to maintain market share over it’s competitors in the past. It might not be right to expect the worst of Intel in this case but it’s equally absurd to accept on faith that they are in this for the sake of honest profit, let alone the good of the children.

I think some of Negroponte’s bitterness is justified and not just sour grapes, maybe not all, but some.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think one detail you failed to mention is that Intel’s prototype of their own version of the OLPC was quite a bit more expensive than the current model. So a “better laptop” is debatable and you can pretty much forget “at a lower price”. Granted, I’m all for competition, but like the guy says, it needs to be viewed as helping children, not just more pockets to empty for profit.

On that note, I personally think this whole OLPC thing is out of hand. Maybe it’s just me, but with all the commercials we see about sponsoring children who desperately need basics like food, clothing, shoes, etc., I think our resources would be better spent on those things which are needed, rather than those things that would just be nice to have. Contrary to popular opinion, people do not need computers and the internet to receive a proper education, and they certainly don’t need them to live in this world. They do, however, need food, clothing and shelter, not to mention medical facilities. I think we may need to rethink the priorities here.

Dirk says:

Re: Re:

This isn’t really about the kids who can’t feed themselves.

This is about the kids who are able to live their lives, but live in underdeveloped countries where education is something they could really use, but isn’t available.

They’re not going out into the desert and giving these to kids who are starving to death.

wes says:

they are only in it for the sales volume

I’d say Intel only joined the program because they were interested in the sales volume that the OLPC was targeting. Otherwise they have no interest. The breakdown, to me, signifies the difference of opinions of the two firms. OLPC is intereted in using the worlds poor to propel its self into a world leading supplier of hardware, whereas Intel wants to maintain its position as the leader.

Two sides of the coin, the partnership was doomed from the start. It will be interesting to see if OLPC, can, against all odds, beat up the big guy.

Milton says:

There are more important things...

There is one type of comment, heard about so many things, that goes like the above comment: “we shouldn’t be doing/supporting X because there is such a strong need to do Y!”

I cannot believe that anyone can put up such an argument. Following that argument, we shouldn’t be doing ANYTHING except for some agreed-upon MOST IMPORTANT thing. Give me a break!

Let’s do ALL the things that need doing, depending on each person’s interests and concerns.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There are more important things...

There is one type of comment, heard about so many things, that goes like the above comment: “we shouldn’t be doing/supporting X because there is such a strong need to do Y!”

When money and resources are limited, expending them should be prioritized according to greatest need. To do otherwise is know as “squandering” resources.

I cannot believe that anyone can put up such an argument. Following that argument, we shouldn’t be doing ANYTHING except for some agreed-upon MOST IMPORTANT thing. Give me a break!

Let’s do ALL the things that need doing, depending on each person’s interests and concerns.

They aren’t exactly giving these things away. They’re trying to get poor governments to spend money on these computers instead of more important things like food, water, and medical care. Money that could be used to save lives instead. So you wind up with more kids dead and that’s a shame.

If you want to waste your own resources, that’s one thing. But don’t do it to poor families in third world countries.

SteveD says:

Small market?

Problem with the OLPC programme is that it needs vast numbers of orders to be cost effective, and Negroponte probably looks on any competition as something that’s going to cause the entire project to collapse.

There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, but if Intel is selling a more expensive machine at a lower price to destroy the competition (which isn’t something I’d put past Intel) then that’s not really healthy, is it? You’d end up reducing choice, not increasing it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Negroponte's ego

I don’t know how many of you have actually seen or used an OLPC, but I have, almost a year ago. And it’s crap. The software is completely non-standard, the screen is so bad it borders on unreadable (think of a mid-eighties Nintendo device), and the whole think is huge and unwieldy.

In no way will it prepare ANY kid for the real world of computing, since it bears zero relation to any computer in the real world.

Never mind the fact that what these kids really need is decent food, shelter and security, not a computer. Oh, and perhaps getting them electricity and a phone would be a better placed effort. Hell, even sending them our ‘outdated’ textbooks would be a better use for the money they are spending.

Ajax 4Hire (profile) says:

What killed my joy for OLPC is

What killed my enthusiasm for OLPC was when it required anyone in a certain area to pay twice as much as someone in another area. I am in the pay 2x for something area.

This was done for the children.

If I want to help increase the volume, I must over-pay.
No, I don’t think so. Don’t force my charity like a government redistribution tax.

So I took that $400 and gave it to my church. I trust them implicitly. I can guarantee it going to good use.

I will not support OLPC, I will not help OLPC, I will not buy into the Kumbaya of OLPC.

fuego451 (profile) says:

After checking the facts......

Add another check mark in the negative column of, mostly, negative stories about the OLPC program. I think Tim’s, here, deserves honorable mention though because it is the closest thing to FUD I’ve read on techdirt. Judging by the mostly misinformed noise your diatribe garnered, I’d say you are in good company, Tim.

What is it? You think we should be giving the poor kids of the world Wonder Bread or you just think Negroponte is a dick? Didn’t you guys volunteer to help OLPC?

Tim Lee (user link) says:

Re: After checking the facts......

I criticize OLPC when they make decisions I think are mistakes, which has been a lot of the time. I’ve also defended them from criticism I thought was unfair. Since you didn’t explain what you disliked about the post, I can’t really address your claim that it’s “FUD.” I don’t have any particular axe to grind with OLPC, I just think they’ve made a number of poor strategic decisions that have undermined their effectiveness. I’d be interested to know what you think is wrong with my critique.

fuego451 (profile) says:

Re: Re: After checking the facts......

I didn’t say your post was FUD. I said it was “close” to being FUD. I was wrong to say that. It’s more along the lines of a troll. There is plenty of information on the net about Intel quiting OLPC and I know you can find it just as easily as I can but you could start by comparing your article with this.[nytimes.com]
That doesn’t sound like “sour grapes” to me. Sounds more like the Intel gang are a bunch of self centered, egotistical pricks taking advantage of people trying to help others.

Almost all the techdirt articles on OLPC seem to take on a condescending air toward the project and treat it as a dumb tech company that doesn’t know how to run a business. They are neither! Perhaps you could offer OLPC some expert help.

Finally, I don’t think you appreciate, at all, the philosophy behind the project or the XO computer. Have you seen the XO, played with it, scrutinized the design, know how it works, know why they chose the software installed? Do you know that there is a button on the XO keyboard which will show you the source code of the application you are using? Do you know why they did this?

Tim Lee (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: After checking the facts......

I haven’t had a chance to try an XO out, although I’ve read a number of reviews and I think I understand the general philosophy behind it. It certainly sounds like a promising concept, but unfortunately, I think it’s being undermined by poor execution. For example, the “Give One Get One” program seemed to me like a great way to raise some revenue and get more laptops in the hands of actual users. They should have made it permanent. Instead they seem to have ended it. I know they’re not a tech company, but I think they’d be more successful if they thought a bit more like one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 After checking the facts......

I agree. While the XO isn’t as great as some fanatics make it out to be, it isn’t bad for what it is. And if people want to give these things to poor children, that’s just great and the “Give One Get One” program was a good way of doing that. What I have a problem with is the idea of trying to push poor countries to BUY them (which takes money away from more pressing needs).

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Conflict of Interest

I have no problem with Intel competing with OLPC. Such competition was what created the wonderful Asus Eee I’m using to type this, so as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier.

The problem is that Intel was doing this while at the same time sitting on the board of directors of OLPC. That, I think, was hypocritical.

KD says:

Drinking Intel's Kool-Aid

Tim, check your beverage supply.

Intel was trying to do its version of Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

The Classmate is not a better product at a lower price. The OLPC was designed from the beginning to focus on encouraging and supporting learning in environments where today that is very hard. The Classmate is a slightly stripped down Wintel PC, thrown together in a hurry to try to block what Intel sees as an infant threat to their business. Giving traditional Wintel PCs to children in third world countries won’t do very much to encourage and support learning there.

What Intel did could be considered child abuse in two senses — trying to kill off an infant project, and trying to eliminate the benefits that a health OLPC project will bring to the children it intends to serve.

The OLPC group no doubt is not perfect, and may have contributed in some small ways to the situation with Intel, but Intel was a bad actor in this from the get-go. Their only interest — ONLY interest — is to block the rise of what they fear is a potentially important competing technology.

Every right-thinking person should censure Intel in the strongest terms.

AMP says:

Re: Drinking Intel's Kool-Aid

“What Intel did could be considered child abuse in two senses — trying to kill off an infant project, and trying to eliminate the benefits that a health OLPC project will bring to the children it intends to serve.” That is an assinine comment.

“Every right-thinking person should censure Intel in the strongest terms” Huh, I am really glad that you are here to tell me what is right and wrong….how would we all get by without you pointing this out to us?

catbeller says:

Story is missing updates

Update to the facts:

1. Someone ratted out an Intel salesperson that was trying to warn off a country from OLPC and recommended instead they buy the more expensive Classmate. Apparently this is not an isolated incident. Intel is using its position as an OLPC backer to damage OLPC sales.
2. Key point: Intel is a member of the OLPC group, and has signed a non-disparagement agreement.
3. Negroponte states that Intel reps have been telling OLPC potential customers that since they now have privileged info from joining the OLPC group, they confidentially report to their customers as an “insider” that the OLPC project is in trouble; so please, for your own good, buy our Classmates instead.
4. Even tho this behavior was earlier brought to Intel’s attention with the result that Intel promised to clean up its act, they are still using their position on the project to undermine the OLPC’s adoption. In other words, they are killing the project from the inside. So Negroponte asked them, with some ascerbity, to get out.

catbeller says:

Clarification of point 1

clarified:
1. Someone ratted out an Intel salesperson that was trying to warn off a country from OLPC, IN THEIR CAPACITY AS AN OLPC representative, and recommended instead they buy the more expensive Classmate. Apparently this is not an isolated incident. Intel is using its position as an OLPC backer to damage OLPC sales.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: EEE

OLPC screen can be read outside in sunlight

So can a book.

has a bigger screen

Than what? Not most laptops. And certainly smaller than most textbooks.

uses an awsome [sic] range extending mesh network

Most laptops can run mesh network software. Books don’t need to.

doesn’t require the school install a generator to keep classes going

The XO is intended to be used with generators, either human powered, cow powered, solar powered, car powered, wind powered, bicycle powered or otherwise. Those types of generators can also be used with regular laptops. Books don’t need them.

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