$100 Laptop Still $400, But Now With More Advertising

from the market?-bah dept

Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child initiative has received plenty of press over the years, though we've never quite fully understood it. While the idea of making cheap, durable laptops available to people worldwide has some value, the benefits haven't been fully explained and Negroponte's thoughts on how best to deliver them have been a bit perplexing. In particular, his apparent belief that competition in the space is a bad -- when competition might actually help realize the goal of a $100 machine more quickly than if OLPC goes it alone. In an attempt to boost volume, OLPC is getting a bunch of media companies to donate airtime and and ad space for a marketing campaign for the machine, trying to drive donations or sales under its "Give One, Get One" program, where people can spend $400 for an XO of their own, while another one gets donated to the cause. The head of the agency which created the ads for the campaign says they'll help build the economies of scale necessary to get the XO laptops down to the magical $100 price point.

Meanwhile, the prices of other netbooks, as these things do, continue to fall. While none are yet down to $100, it's hard to imagine that it will be too much longer before somebody breaks the barrier. And it probably won't be the OLPC group. With that in mind, Negroponte's anti-competitive, go-it-alone stance continues to confuse. If the market and competition can drive prices down, that's great for the OLPC mission, right? So why not abandon the single-product model (especially since hardware is basically a commodity, even with the XO's features), and focus on getting as many devices as possible -- even if they're another brand -- into schools worldwide? If the real OLPC innovation is the software, install it on the machines. It would certainly seem that the best course of action is to do whatever will drive the cost down the most quickly, and somehow using the growing consumer netbook market, rather than OLPC standing alone with its own machine, would do that. Negroponte seems hesitant to acknowledge that the bigger market can actually help OLPC's mission, even when ignoring that fact hampers that mission.

Filed Under: $100, advertising, olpc

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  1. identicon
    Michael Foord, 19 Nov 2008 @ 2:01am

    Not commodity hardware

    The OLPC hardware is very definitely not commodity hardware that can just be replaced with another brand designed for western consumers.

    It is specifically designed for the target market:

    * Ultra low-power and designed to be recharged from unstable power sources
    * A screen that can be viewed in direct sunlight and can be used as an 'e-book' drawing virtually no power
    * Mesh networking for sharing an internet connection
    * Durable and easy to repair

    These (which are only the ones I know about) are largely features that are uninteresting to manufacturers wanting to sell to western consumers.

    Although I disagree with various aspects of how Negroponte has led the project (not allowing small trials and not properly managing the sugar project) it does *seem* that some of the competitors are more interested in killing the OLPC project by selling unsuitable hardware at a loss than genuinely serving the 'market' that the OLPC is targetting.

    More competition won't drive down the price of the OLPC, that isn't how the market works.

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