At ZD's Hardware 2.0 blog, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes cites this quote from former OLPC developer Ivan Krstic about Nicholas Negroponte's rapidly shifting mission statement:
In fact, I quit when Nicholas told me — and not just me — that learning was never part of the mission. The mission was, in his mind, always getting as many laptops as possible out there; to say anything about learning would be presumptuous, and so he doesn’t want OLPC to have a software team, a hardware team, or a deployment team going forward.
Nicholas Negroponte has been reinventing OLPC like crazy trying to justify running Windows XP on the green machine. Wayan Ota at OLPC News points to this recent version Nick posted to a mailing list:
To eliminate poverty and create world peace by providing education to the poorest and most remote children on the planet by making them more active in their own learning, through collaborative and creative activities, connected to the Internet, with their own laptop, as a human right and cost free to them.
Well, even that does make it seem like it's about education – "making them more active in their own learning." That squares with the idea of Sugar – an operating system that makes it possible for children like that to create their own programs. How does using XP accomplish that or collaboration or creativity?
In any case, it's not the original mission statement or even the latest version. Here's the original:
OLPC is not at heart a technology program and the XO is not a product in any conventional sense of the word. We are non-profit: constructionism is our goal; XO is our means of getting there. It is a very cool, even revolutionary machine, and we are very proud of it. But we would also be delighted if someone built something better, and at a lower price.
So, constructionism is out and human rights are in. What matters to Negroponte now is getting laptops out there – somehow, magically, world peace, education and creativity will spring up by sheer dint of distributing laptops. Only Negroponte can't do this without governments ponying up to buy millions of the things. And they won't do that if it runs some weird-ass Sugar OS. They will buy machines that run Windows.
So the question sits there: What is the point of the whole effort? To make an improvement in the developing world – to increase tech education, or substantive education, or enable software businesses, or connect people to the outside world, or drive Internet access?
Or just to sell computers? Right now Nicholas Negroponte looks like the computer salesman in the old joke: What's the difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman? The car salesman knows when he's lying to you.