Is Intel trying to torpedo the OLPC?

Is Intel trying to torpedo the OLPC?

Summary: Nicholas Negroponte, head of the One Laptop Per Child project, blasted Intel for trying to usurp any momentum his effort is getting. Negroponte's argument delivered via 60 Minutes: Intel was pitching its wares and a cheap PC dubbed the Classmate to torpedo the OLPC effort, which needs 3 million orders to start manufacturing.

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TOPICS: Intel, Laptops, Windows
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Nicholas Negroponte, head of the One Laptop Per Child project, blasted Intel for trying to usurp any momentum his effort is getting.

Negroponte's argument delivered via 60 Minutes: Intel was pitching its wares and a cheap PC dubbed the Classmate to torpedo the OLPC effort, which needs 3 million orders to start manufacturing.

I happened to catch 60 Minutes as I was flipping through channels and admit I was torn by the whole story, which even included a 60 Minutes gotcha moment--documents Intel was sending to OLPC potential customers touting its chips. The OLPC (blog focus) uses AMD chips. 60 Minutes' Leslie Stahl even confronted Intel Chairman Craig Barrett with it. Unfortunately, 60 Minutes didn't post the documents online so we could really see what they were.

Negroponte concludes (Techmeme discussion):

"Intel should be ashamed of itself," Negroponte says. "It’s just – it’s just shameless."

So why am I torn? Intel is pitching its wares below costs and screwing with Negroponte's dream. Negroponte's main theme -- the large potential numbers behind the OLPC -- scares the hell out of Intel, which doesn't want AMD being the chip of choice in the emerging markets. Intel's behavior if true doesn't portray the company well. But it's not surprising--Windows is also getting a lot cheaper for the emerging markets since the OLPC has Linux.

In that respect, I'm on Negroponte's side.

However, the 60 Minutes video also features a lot of ego involved too--and is cast as a technology turf war. Negroponte clearly would get a lot of satisfaction out of delivering a laptop to every kid on the planet. That's understandable, but perhaps Negroponte is the equivalent of another technology vendor. And vendors always duke it out for markets. It isn't pretty.

In the end, however, I just want kids to get laptops and hopefully learn something. In the technology industry everything is colored by Windows vs. Linux, Intel vs. AMD and other turf wars. It's all very convenient. But this thinking ultimately shortchanges the kids.

If Negroponte's project never ships a laptop, it'll be a success. Why? The OLPC is forcing the issue out in the open and making the behemoths rewrite the form factor playbook for emerging markets.

Topics: Intel, Laptops, Windows

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