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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Aug 2008 @ 7:46am

    Re: Re:

    The idea that competition is always good for society is also an opinion substituting as fact.

    No, it's pretty clearly opinion. This is an opinion site.


    It's not really expressed as an opinion, it's not defended in any way. It's more of a hidden assumption that I choose to challenge.

    Even Adam Smith, who originated the idea of the "invisible hand" never said that self-interested competition always led to the greater good, he just said that it sometimes did.

    Can you explain why it wouldn't in this situation?


    Obviously people who are not privy to the decision making process at Microsoft or Intel are not going to know exactly what process they are going through in making the decisions that they are making. That would certainly include me, and I am assuming that it would include you as well. The truth is that we just don't know why Microsoft and Intel decided to enter this market. You are assuming that they have decided that there is money to be made and that's a good enough reason. I'm not so sure, and the reason that I'm not so sure is that both of the companies that are involved are large enough to distort the markets they compete in.

    If they were just another small company, we could assume that they can't afford to give away products at way under cost to drive a competitor out of business, and then presumably raise prices. But they can afford to do this, and they have in the past.

    There are reasons that capitalism works. There are reasons that it doesn't work. I can't say for sure what it going on in this particular case, because I don't have any special insight into the strategies and motivations of the companies involved. But the fact that both of the companies involved are close to de facto monopolies causes me to be skeptical.

    I'm not going as far as Mr. Negroponte in accusing them of nefarious activities, but I am certainly willing to listen to his side of the story instead of considering him some kind of nutjob out of hand.

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