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 @ 11:30am

    Not Apples and Apples on either side

    Granted, the Times article was pretty one-sided and Negroponte comes off as an arrogant ass, but your take on it is pretty off too. On one side you have a non-profit organization that has been working on this for years, on the other you have two of the largest IT corps in the world, both who have a vested interest in seeing the OLPC fail, or at least substantially change how it's built.

    If the OLPC as it was originally envisioned is broadly successful, that would represent a major loss of mindshare for both MS and Intel in those developing markets.

    Further, how is the Intel or MS approach any less top-down? In the articles I've read, the supposed "needs" that are not being met are being defined largely by governmental bureaucrats, not the citizens and teachers who would actually be using the devices. Additionally, I've read some articles that made the claim that those same officials received some nice contributions from MS just before these needs got defined.

    All these accusations of attempting to kill the project or bribe officials aside, true or not, the situation creates the appearance of corporate interests having an undue influence on the technological development of developing nations, and people in positions of power making decisions for the wrong reasons. The whole situation smacks of corruption, even if it really is "fair" competition between an NPO and multi-billion dollar corps. Companies that were perfectly happy to ignore these markets until the OLPC started gaining traction.

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