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


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  1. identicon
    Ben Selinger, 15 Aug 2008 @ 2:28pm

    Competition does NOT drive innovation

    Competition very rarely drives any technical innovation.
    Competition only ever drives innovation in marketing.

    An excellent, and simple example of this, is Intel's new Atom CPU. This 1.6GHz x86 processor, is Intel's answer (imho) to AMD's Geode LX/GX, and Via's Nemiah.
    Competition between companies, to produce ultra-low power consumption CPU's seems like a great idea, until you actually have to use one.
    By Intel's own (reluctant) admission, the Intel Atom 1.6GHz CPU runs 54% the speed of its predicessor, the CeleronM 900MHz (which can only really run 600MHz, so the 54% comparison is actually comparing to 600MHz), while using 80% the wattage. Do a little math, and you quickly realize that the Atom is using 160% the wattage, to attain the same amount of processing as the CeleronM. The CeleronM uses three to five times the amount of wattage to attain the same result as the AMD GeodeLX.

    Despite the math, Intel will certainly sell a lot of Atom CPU's. They are the result of competition, but not competition in technological innovation, but simply in marketing strategy.

    Intel was originally partnered with OLPC, but bailed the moment they realize OLPC would not install Intel CPU's in their machines, simply for the sake of politics. OLPC needed the best CPU for the job, and that happened to be the Geode LX800. Intel ditched, and released the ClassmatePC (which bombed). The classmate PC was a direct, competitive response to the XO, yet it couldn't compete in performance, power usage, functionality, nor durability.

    People bought the ClassmatePC instead of the XO, 100% due to political motivation, driven by sneaky marketing.

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