XO laptop sales begin, but support plan is nonexistent

XO laptop sales begin, but support plan is nonexistent

Summary: Distributing laptops to kids around the world was supposed to be a government initiative. But Nicholas Negroponte has largely failed to sign up any foreign governments to purchase millions of One Laptop Per Child’s XO laptops.

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Distributing laptops to kids around the world was supposed to be a government initiative. But Nicholas Negroponte has largely failed to sign up any foreign governments to purchase millions of One Laptop Per Child’s XO laptops.

Today the effort moved to the world of consumer sales and philanthropy, as OLPC’s Give 1, Get 1 program launched. And it appears to have launched in a big way. Wayan Vota, editor of OLPC News, pointed out that by the end of day Monday, the G1G1 website was saying there were only 12 days left in the sale.

That’s confusing because OLPC has said there will be no limit to the number of orders they take from Nov. 12 to 26; the organization originally said there would be only 25,000 laptops available for G1G1. After Wayan posted, the site reverted to the 15-day countdown, so probably the 12-day graphic was just a web designer glitch.

In any case, the laptop appears to have high geek appeal and the limited-time offer seems to be driving buying mania.

I talked to Wayan earlier today about this interesting clause in OLPC’s terms and conditions, as blogged by News.com’s Peter Glaskowsky.

9. Neither OLPC Foundation nor One Laptop per Child, Inc. has service facilities, a help desk or maintenance personnel in the United States or Canada. Although we believe you will love your XO laptop, you should understand that it is not a commercially available product and, if you want help using it, you will have to seek it from friends, family, and bloggers. One goal of the G1G1 initiative is to create an informal network of XO laptop users in the developed world, who will provide feedback about the utility of the XO laptop as an educational tool for children, participate in the worldwide effort to create open-source educational applications for the XO laptop, and serve as a resource for those in the developing world who seek to optimize the value of the XO laptop as an educational tool. A fee based tech support service will be available to all who desire it. We urge participants in the G1G1 initiative to think of themselves as members of an international educational movement rather than as "customers."

In a nutshell, Wayan thought this was pretty lame. Here’s what he told me:

"It’s an interesting way for them to keep from having to handle service requests. One page on a Wiki does not make a constructive user guide. They need to have some comprehensive support plan in place."

And to loop back to the beginning of this post, this lack of support is a key stumbling block in the country-level sales effort.

"Ministers in the developing world need this in order to be able to buy laptops. Without a maintenance plan, what are they supposed to do, tell the kids to get a screwdriver and fix it themselves? That's Humpty Dumpty on a massive scale."

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility

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29 comments
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  • This is a great program but...

    Always the case. I have participated in the OLPC program. And I feel that if you are going to help someone overseas, you should help some one at home. My company sponsors a family every year for the CHRISTMAS holiday. With that initiative, I am going to donate the OLPC I get to that family. I want to ensure no one at home misses an equal opportunity given overseas.
    egsmachine@...
    • Good for you!

      Charity begins at home, I appluad your attitude!
      Heatlesssun1
  • The Usual

    S N A F U !
    WSHBaker@...
  • RE: XO laptop sales begin, but support plan is nonexistent

    Game-changing initiatives always have obstacles. The laptops don't cost $100 yet either, but that's a GOAL, not a GIVEN. Same for support, documentation, and shipping. I thought the give-1-get-1 idea was tremendously innovative - a way to get the overall price down for the developing world, and at the same time stimulate a user base in the US that might be able to do something useful in terms of support and documentation.
    marselgb@...
  • RE: XO laptop sales begin, but support plan is nonexistent

    I own a small computer repair business in Latrobe PA. I will offer free tech support to people who own this laptop if they are running the Linux version. I think Bill gates should offer the same thing if he is truly willing to help out people who can't afford it. But i guess that is the difference between the Linux community and M$.
    Jay E Court
    • Discounts to MS Users

      I used to be in a small computer repair shop. We were forced to give discounts to Microsoft users who agreed to our rates when they needed service, but then wanted us to "sharpen up our pencil" when the invoice was 90 days overdue.

      Licensing jobs were the worst. We had one guy who actually shorted us EXACTLY the licensing costs, because "no one else paid for licenses, why should he?"
      Too Old For IT
    • That's awesome

      Perhaps people like you will step up to the plate and create the network of gratis support that OLPC needs. The question still remains, what happens in Africa?
      rkoman@...
      • I offered my services....

        maybe you couold offer your services in that way.
        Jay E Court
  • So how is this different

    So how is this different from traditional support, where you call Pashi in India, and he reads a script to you in bad English?
    Too Old For IT
    • Have them call the following tech support...

      http://www.illwillpress.com/tech.html
      jcolegrove@...
  • Jumping to conclusions

    The statement you quoted about the lack of support was based on the G1G1 program. Without other evidence it is inaccurate to assume that this applies to the systems sold to developing countries. There could be a separate support system in place for these countries that is not available to people in the US who acquire an xo in the G1G1.
    leupole
    • I imagine that each country will have to create thier own support network,

      OLPC will of course offer training courses, etc, and will be available to national level contacts with problems they are experiencing.
      DonnieBoy
      • agree

        Given all of the language barriers that is the only support model that makes sense. At least in the startup stages. I live in Belize and have been asked to participate in a trial program down here. I have not been given the particulars on support yet but I believe the desire is to get me trained in the support role. Hopefully I can answer that question in a few weeks.
        leupole
  • Calibrating Expectations

    When I read the Terms & Conditions during the order process, I thought this was a fine statement:

    "If you want help using it, you will have to seek it from friends, family, and bloggers. One goal of the G1G1 initiative is to create an informal network of XO laptop users in the developed world, who will provide feedback about the utility of the XO laptop as an educational tool for children, participate in the worldwide effort to create open-source educational applications for the XO laptop, and serve as a resource for those in the developing world who seek to optimize the value of the XO laptop as an educational tool."

    This is an open-system community-building effort, and that means early adopters in the developed countries need to look at themselves as seeding the community, not as consumers.

    The fact that the warranty is only for 30 days should be even more daunting if you're concerned about being treated as a customer rather than a bleeding-edge early adopter.

    There are developer forums and I expect the wikis and other forums will have to expand to account for the second-wave (the post beta) community of usage. I'm hoping that there will be local meet-ups and other efforts to bring people together to share experience too. I bet some students will find ways to make it dance, and we need to share that.

    This is a gigantic bootstrapping effort and the early ramp up is just the first mile of a lengthy journey. My mind boggles just thinking about the internationalization effort around machines being donated to kids in Haiti, Afghanistan, Rwanda, and Cambodia as the result of G1G1 contributions. And then there's the osmosis of craft and applications across such language and cultural communities.

    It will be interesting to see what our school kids are able to teach us about the innovative values of the XO, or whether they'll stick to cell phones and iPods.

    I'm thinking of this as a global cyberspace barn raising. It's also a great opportunity for developing some open-source chops and looking at this system as this decade's version of the Apple IIe, Heathkits, and TRS-80s that an earlier generation teethed on.
    orcmid
  • Are there any real plans in place?

    My biggest worry of this project is that it will fail to get laptops to children that need them, but that it will fail to provide what is necessary for that to have a long term impact. Figure, most of the children who receive these laptops will never have even seen a computer before. There will probably be nobody they can ask for help either.

    So maybe they will figure out how to play a few games, but without some form of education support, that will be the end of it. Even if the builders have done an excellent job, I don't expect the average laptop to last more than 4 years. So that means, even if every single child in the world received one, after 4 years there may be nothing to show for out, except a huge dump of discarded laptops.

    Bill
    docbillnet
    • No matter what OS the countries were going to introduce, they would have to

      create a support network. Microsoft does NOT give support to individual students for Windows for example.

      But, you really do underestimate kids. They will likely pick up these computers and learn to use them without a whole lot of help. The interface is especially designed for self learning.
      DonnieBoy
      • You mean like kids in th US?

        "They will likely pick up these computers and learn to use them without a whole lot of help."

        Yes indeed, one only needs to look at the US schools to see, uh oh, it didn't work here eitehr and in fact SAT scores have fallen.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Yes, the kids in the US.

          Although there are some that don't take well to electronics, there is a great number of kids that are learning computers even better than their parents(Provided they have a computer to experiment on).

          A few examples? Kids hacking into the computers at school and the administrators having trouble coping with it, my mom doesn't know the difference between the router and the modem(Let alone the internet and the browser) but she and my brother(7 years old) both use both well, and the ads on TV(Although they may be misleading) even say that kids are learning to use electronics better than the generations before them.

          My point is: People can learn things if they start learning at the right time and have the patience to learn. Those people who are making worse scores on the SAT either didn't care to learn everything in high school or the school didn't provide sufficient education to the kids before they took it. Besides, you don't have to be smart to use a computer; just "point and click". It's like people who are mentally handicapped; they can't do certain things, but they can do some things really well(If they find that thing that they're good at).
          Nobu_z
        • SAT's

          Your ignoring 2 things:

          1. they changed how the SAT's are scored which is what created the lower scores.

          2. SAT's don't test for computer literacy
          leupole
      • learning is not the issue, fixing is

        Agreed they are supposed to be great machines for self-learning. The question is what to do when they break? And remember we're talking laptops and kids. Hardware breaks - software corrupts - files get deleted ...
        rkoman@...