by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 31st 2009 1:52pm
Thu, Jan 29th 2009 12:58pm
from the it's-about-time dept
But news that the hardware from OLPC's second version, XO-2, will be open sourced, gives hope that things are starting to change. Speaking to the Guardian, Negroponte says, "The XO-1 was really designed as if we were Apple. The XO-2 will be designed as if we were Google - we'll want people to copy it. We'll make the constituent parts available. We'll try and get it out there using the exact opposite approach that we did with the XO-1." Open hardware is an exciting new arena for innovative designs and, by embracing it, OLPC will create a new opportunity for entrepreneurs to create the best laptop for the developing world (or even the developed world). Also, instead of picking an established manufacturer from East Asia, open sourced hardware specifications will allow the developing world's emergent technology industries to compete, strengthening the communities OLPC seeks to assist.
by Timothy Lee
Wed, May 28th 2008 5:25pm
from the top-down-or-bottom-up dept
From the outset, one of the oddities of the One Laptop Per Child project has been the tension between its organizational philosophy and its software platform. In his famous essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," Eric Raymond contrasted two organizational philosophies for developing software. In the Cathedral, software projects are organized in a top-down fashion, with the development process following a plan carefully developed by the project's leaders. In contrast, the philosophy of the Bazaar is to "release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity." The OLPC project was a strange beast because it was clearly organized on the "Cathedral" model, yet it was developed around Linux, the open source project that Raymond used as the poster child for the "Bazaar" style of development. And its broader vision of empowering third-world kids to use the laptops without a lot of central support, is clearly more Bazaar than Cathedral.
I think many of the problems we've noted with the project stemmed from this fundamental conflict of visions. Nicholas Negroponte's vision for the OLPC organization has always been the model of the Cathedral: produce a perfect laptop on the first try and sell it in batches of a hundred thousand to the world's governments. Negroponte's plan left little room for the kind of development growth, bottom-up participation, and trial-and error that characterizes the Bazaar. Indeed, even when customers were beating down the door to try out Negroponte's product, he resisted selling it to them because it conflicted with his vision. And of course, he absolutely hated the idea of his customers having other options to choose from.
This tension was never sustainable, and indeed there are increasing signs that OLPC's innovative technologies are being steadily liberated from the Cathedral. In January, we noted that one OLPC alum was starting a new firm to commercialize the OLPC's display technology. Now CNet notes that another OLPC alum, Walter Bender, is starting a new software spinoff to license OLPC technology to a variety of laptop manufacturers. Bender's decision to start a new company was presumably sparked by Negroponte's decision to run OLPC more like Microsoft, which one engineer claims involved demoting Bender in favor of someone with less technical expertise.
It seems that the folks who have left OLPC have a more Bazaar-like vision for their companies, licensing their technologies to a variety of companies. In contrast, Negroponte seems to be doubling down on the "Cathedral" model. He's reportedly considering a switch from Linux to Windows. That would be oddly appropriate given the apparent similarities between Negroponte's management philosophy and Steve Ballmer's.