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."