Skip to main content

Intel Joins OLPC Board

Intel Joins OLPC Board

Few people would argue that getting computers and communication technology into the hands of children in developing countries is a good idea: by enabling children to express themselves, connect to information in the wider world, and share their experiences and views with a global community not only benefits the individual children—many of whom receive little formal education—but ultimately helps their societies develop and thrive in a world economy.

The notion has nonetheless become a bit of a battleground in technology circles. The One Laptop Per Child project, spearheaded by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte, envisioned delivering millions of $100 laptop computers directly to governments, who would distribute them through their education systems. Soon, however, other company began looking at the market for inexpensive educational notebooks, including (most significantly) Intel with its Classmate PC, and Asustek’s Eee PC.

Related Videos

The OLPC XO Laptop has so far failed to meet its goal price o $100 per system; right now, systems are priced at about $175, and the only thing that’s going to bring the per-unit cost down is sheer volume: OLPC needs governments to place sizable orders for the machines so that its manufacturing costs come down and, in turn, the ultimate price declines. Competition in the educational notebook arena inevitably means fewer orders for XO notebooks, and the OLPC project could not have been particularly pleased when Intel inked a deal to sell 700,000 Classmate PCs to Pakistan and began saying it expected its per-unit costs to decline to about $200. Negroponte has even characterized Intel’s moves as “shameless,” and claimed Intel was selling Classmates at a loss simply to carve up the market. Intel, in turn, has pooh-poohed OLPC’s XO notebook as a mere “gadget.”

Now, however, Intel and OLPC appear to have reached an accord: the Associated Press and other sources are reporting that Intel will join OLPC’s board of directors and assist the nonprofit with technical developments and funding.

While some see the partnership as a move to marginalize the OLPC project in favor of Intel-engineered solutions, while others view the partnership as a way to provide more flexible educational computing solutions; after all, neither camp has made the claim that a single notebook design is suitable to every educational need, and a partnership could immediately double available options.

OLPC’s XO notebooks currently use processors from Intel rival AMD, and run custom software built on open source components; Intel’s Classmate PCs are built on selected proprietary technologies and can Windows XP or Linux-based educational solutions.

Editors' Recommendations

Colombia Signs up for 65,000 OLPCs

Aside from the stir One Laptop Per Child’s XO-1 laptop has created stateside, and the mini-notebook revolution it debatably helped launch (alongside the Asus Eee), not much is often heard about the project’s ultimate goal: getting laptops into tiny hands abroad.  The crew took one major step closer this week, though, with an order of 65,000 laptops coming in from one of Colombia’s major coffee-growing regions. The State of Caldas placed the order to supply its children with OLPC’s XO-1 laptops. “My government and our State legislators are fully committed to giving each and every child of primary school age the same opportunity to access knowledge as the most privileged children in New York, Berlin or Tokyo,” said Governor Mario Aristizabal. “The One Laptop per Child program is the right vehicle to reach that goal and its potential socio-economic impact cannot be under-emphasized.” The first batch of 15,000 laptops will arrive in Caldas later this year, with the remaining 50,000 making it over through 2009. In order to make sure the laptops actually make it into the hands of children and get use, the governor has also created a local team to supervise their deployment and provide support for them.

Read more
OLPC, Microsoft Partner for XP on the XO

Microsoft Corporation and the non-profit One Laptop Per Child project has announced an agreement that will put Windows XP on the OLPC XO laptop—albeit with a higher price tag attached. OLPC XO's will still be available with the organization's Linux-based operating system and education-centric Sugar interface, but versions will also be available with XP, which should make the notebooks easier to sell to governments and educational programs who want to be sure students are acquiring marketable skills. The companies also plan to work together on a version of the XO notebook that can boot into either XP or Sugar, and the OLPC foundation says it plans to work with third parties to port the Sugar interface to Windows. "From the beginning, the goal of OLPC has been to use technology to transform education by bringing connectivity and constructionist learning to the poorest children throughout the world," said OLPC chairman Nicholas Negroponte, in a statement. "Today's announcement, coupled with future plans for a dual boot version of the XO laptop, enhances our ability to deliver on this vision." Microsoft says it has been working on bringing XP up on the OLPC notebook for a year; however, the current version doesn't support some of the XO's unique security features or mesh wireless networking, although it supports standard Wi-Fi and the XO's integrated camera. Trial deployments of XO notebooks running XP could get underway as soon as June; versions with Windows will cost between $18 and $20 more than the original XO notebooks, with $3 of the cost covering a Windows XP license. James Utzschneider, Microsoft's general manager for marketing and communication for the company's Unlimited Potential group, said in a company blog that Microsoft has been interesting in brining Windows to the OLPC platform to expand its ecosystem—enabling users to tap into the wide breadth of WIndows software available—but also because customers have been asking for it. Utzschneider also claims studies will show that Windows-equipped OLPCs will be cheaper and easier to maintain than Linux-based systems because Windows systems administrators are easier to find in development market than Linux expert—and they cost less to hire. The OLPC's move toward Windows has met with no small amount of criticism, including former OLPC security architect Ivan Krstić savaging the move in his personal blog as duplicitous and claiming Negroponte has no intention of porting Sugar to Windows. Further, the former head of software and content for the OLPC project, Walter Bender, has announced the formation of Sugar Labs, a non-profit set up specifically to develop new versions of Sugar, as well as adapting Sugar for other low-cost computing platforms like the Asus Eee.

Read more
OLPC Names New President and COO

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has announced that current CFO Charles Kane will be stepping into the roles of President and Chief Operating Officer of the organization as the non-profit looks to put recent snafus and key personnel losses behind then. OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte will stay on board as Chairman, and will focus on fundraising and promoting OLPC to world governments; Kane will assume responsibility for all OLPC operations, as well as negotiating agreements with third parties. "From the moment I got involved with OLPC, I've been passionate about the mission and impressed by the team's ability to break through numerous challenges to develop and deliver the XO laptop," said Kane in a statement. "I greatly look forward to working with the team and our partners to helping make OLPC even more effective in achieving its objectives." Prior to joining the OLPC projhect, Kane headed up enterprise software company Corechange, and before that held executive management positions at Informix and Ardent Software, as well as financial management positions at Stratus Computer, Prime Computer, and Deloitte and Touche. More recently, Kane was the CFO of RSA Security, and interim CFO of Aspen Technology. Negroponte let it be known last month that the organization was searching for someone to step into the OLPC top job. Kane's appointment may resolve recent issues in the OLPC organization which have led to the loss of key personnel in the last few months, including the organization's chief technology officer, director of security and architecture, and president of software and content Walter Bender. Numerous industry reports have OLPC talking with Microsoft about offering a dual-boot version of the OLPC laptop that could run Windows XP as well as the OLPC's custom Linux-based operating system and user interface, Sugar.

Read more