OLPC Finally Decides to Open Source Its Hardware

from the it's-about-time dept

The many travails of the One Laptop Per Child program have been widely chronicled – after developing a robust, innovative laptop for the developing world, Nicholas Negroponte’s educational project failed to garner the reception he expected. One of the main reasons for this was OLPC’s belief that the market could not do better than their small project: instead of seeking the best products for the children of the developing world, competition was anathema to the OLPC group.

But news that the hardware from OLPC’s second version, XO-2, will be open sourced, gives hope that things are starting to change. Speaking to the Guardian, Negroponte says, “The XO-1 was really designed as if we were Apple. The XO-2 will be designed as if we were Google – we’ll want people to copy it. We’ll make the constituent parts available. We’ll try and get it out there using the exact opposite approach that we did with the XO-1.” Open hardware is an exciting new arena for innovative designs and, by embracing it, OLPC will create a new opportunity for entrepreneurs to create the best laptop for the developing world (or even the developed world). Also, instead of picking an established manufacturer from East Asia, open sourced hardware specifications will allow the developing world’s emergent technology industries to compete, strengthening the communities OLPC seeks to assist.

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Comments on “OLPC Finally Decides to Open Source Its Hardware”

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Gus Jenkins says:

“The XO-1 was really designed as if we were Apple. The XO-2 will be designed as if we were Google – we’ll want people to copy it. “

If it were really designed as if they were Apple, people would have actually wanted it. Instead, they looked to the same people that design bowling shoes to design that ugly thing.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Netbooks Beating The OLPC

OLPC is, to me, a lot like satellite phone services. People designed those businesses on the assumption that it would be the only service available, but in the 10 years it took to get the satellites up and running, cheap cellular service took their market.

Similarly, in the time it’s taking OLPC to get their devices out to the developing world, Netbooks have entered the market as a result of innovation and competition in the developed world.

The sheer and sudden explosive growth of Netbooks, which is expected to continue unabated through 2014, will rapidly give these economies of scale which the OLPC could never hope to match. I just bought one with a solid-state drive (ie rugged flash instead of hard disk) for $300! Wait a year for prices to drop further, add a crank-power generator and it beats OLPC at its own game.

The great news is that the market might actually solve some of the challenges Negroponte was so heroic to undertake. And it seems like his recent decision to go open-hardware will allow him to take advantage of the ecosystem Netbooks are creating.

Now on to the next challenge: getting a connection to these devices on the plains of Africa.

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