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Will Nicholas Negroponte Ever Understand That Competition Isn't About Killing OLPC?

from the get-over-it dept

We've never quite understood Nicholas Negroponte's position when it comes to the $100 Laptop/OLPC/XO (whatever it's called these days). While the idea behind creating a super cheap, super durable useful computer for children in developing nations is good, Negroponte has always approached the idea as one where only he should be allowed to see that vision through. When other companies decided it might be a good idea and wanted to target that market themselves, Negroponte flipped out and started attacking them for trying to undermine his project.

Sorry, Nicholas, but competition isn't undermining.

In fact, competition is generally what drives all parties to be better at what they do, in order to fend off the competition. Yet, somehow, the UK's Times Online has bought into Negroponte's side of the story and written up an article bashing Microsoft and Intel for trying to "kill" the OLPC. The article is riddled with factual errors and opinion substituting as fact, but the worst is in the central point of the article. The author mistakes companies all aiming for the same market as a nefarious attempt to "kill off" Negroponte's pet project -- as if he has some universal right to the market that no one else can attempt to enter. It also brushes over some simple facts, like the one where many countries have looked at the OLPC and realized it doesn't really serve their needs just yet. That, if anything, should be even more reason why competition is necessary. It helps create better products that actually serve the needs of people in those markets, rather than just what Negroponte decides they must want in his top-down manner.

Filed Under: competition, execution, ideas, nicholas negroponte, olpc
Companies: amd, intel, microsoft, olpc


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  1. icon
    qhartman (profile), 11 Aug 2008 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: Subsidized laptop for developing Countries

    If one company's product depends on subsidies (from where??), then that likely would take them out as a candidate for purchase by a government.

    They would theoretically be getting subsidized by MS or Intel. MS particularly has a long history of subsidizing PCs sold with Windows on them. That's part of what makes it possible for big manufacturers to sell PCs so inexpensively and still turn a profit. This is particularly true in the low-spec space that the OLPC would occupy. Just try to build a machine using OTS retail (or even OEM) parts and software. If you do a truly apples to apples build, your cost will be higher than buying that machine from a Dell or HP or similar reseller.

    This would be unlikely to have an impact on the suitability for a gov't purchase, there's no reason for it to, it's a common practice in the industry. The reason that OLPC had in interest in avoiding it is because it's dishonest; it's causes a difference between the actual and perceived cost of the machine. If I recall correctly, one of the long-term hopes of the OLPC program was to enable other groups to manufacture them, but if they couldn't do it for the same cost as the original because of the subsidies, this would be rather duplicitous.


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