Sunday, January 13, 2008

Intel and the OLPC

I was shocked this last week to discover that when Intel left the One Laptop Per Child project, many people immediately used this as an opportunity to say that OLPC is finished, done for, kaput. Why, just because one of their most recently joined partners was ousted? Their other partners include Quanta, Chi Mei, AMD, News Corp, Google, Brightstar, Red Hat, Nortell, Marvell, eBay, SES/Astra, Citigroup, Real Networks, Seagate, Adobe, and more.

Seriously, it seems like people want this project to fail and I'm not sure why. I am a proponent many of the ideas that are intrinsic to the XO laptop and the software it comes with, so I'm rooting for it to be a success. I even participated in their Give One Get One program, and I'm eager waiting for my very own green and white XO laptop.

Some people think that because Intel is also selling laptops to education ministries in poor countries that this dooms OLPC. I hope they're wrong. Intel is selling what amounts to power guzzling Windows laptops. They aren't rugged enough, they need AC power to run, and they run Windows and Microsoft Office. In other words they are only in the market to kill OLPC and they don't care the least little bit about benefitting children.

A lot of other people trash the OLPC because it isn't useful to them personally. This is just a nonsensical position to take. It isn't designed for the affluent consumer but for education starved kids in poor countries out in the bush. It fulfills it's intended role perfectly. It is designed specifically to open a world of learning to kids, and not just give them boring drill and repetition games. Why do American consumers tolerate boring educational software BTW?

The OLPC is a completely open platform with a designed-for-kids collaborative GUI and built in wireless mesh networking, special BitFrost security, and very radical learning software. It is uncompromising in executing the vision it sets forth. Very cool.

Some people criticize OLPC saying that kids don't need computers, but clean water and food. There are already many charities striving to provide those things. Why is it wrong for another charity to enrich their minds?

I encourage everyone to go to http://video.google.com/ and search for OLPC or Negroponte. There are some excellent long presentations that explain all the important ideas of OLPC.