Intel at its developer forum on Thursday unveiled the second generation of its Classmates educational "netbook" and the move highlights some of the reasons behind the rift between Intel and the One Laptop Per Child foundation.
I think Intel (and the OEMs that end up distributing these machines in mature markets) are going to have a serious hit on their hands, especially in the educational and home markets...Both machines I received were running Windows XP; we'll see how this evolves come June, but Intel will also be shipping me a Classmate loaded with Edubuntu shortly (the Edubuntu version was also unveiled at IDF). Previously, I had tested first-gen Classmates running Mandriva (loved it) and Metasys Linux (this was fine, but I didn't feel like it could compete with the look and feel of Mandriva). Performance from the 900MHz Celeron M's was quite acceptable, but no anti-malware software was running or installed.
Dawson's review (gallery) highlights one of the issues that Intel with OLPC. The Intel-OLPC partnership ended with a high-profile bang in January. The OLPC said Intel was a bad partner that disparaged its XO laptop in developing markets. Intel said the OLPC wanted the chip giant to kill the Classmate.
Connecting a few dots one issue between Intel and OLPC may have been the speed of product development. Intel obviously has more than emerging markets in mind. The U.S. education market also appears to be in play. For its part, the OLPC has quietly updated its software and is focused on training in emerging markets.
Simply put, Intel is aiming to create more generations of Classmates and move the ball forward. For Intel, new features are the hook and the customer goes beyond the emerging market. In contrast, the OLPC's product roadmap (unboxing gallery) is limited and mostly focused on the third world. Add it up and the OLPC-Intel marriage was doomed from the beginning.
The larger question is this: Which approach is better? Are Intel and the OLPC competitors? Or are the two devices completely different animals? I'd argue the latter, but there will be a few head-on collisions.