Analyst: OLPC won't draw global PC makers

The One Laptop Per Child's endeavor to have others copy its design, may attract Asian whitebox vendors rather than the likes of HP and Dell, according to IDC.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor on

Whitebox vendors in the region may warm up to the One Laptop Per Child's (OLPC's) decision to open its design, according to market research analyst IDC.

Multinational PC makers, on the other hand, will continue their focus on mini-notebooks, Reuben Tan, IDC's senior manager for personal systems research in the Asia-Pacific region, told ZDNet Asia in a phone interview.

Earlier this month, OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte announced the organization's intention to open source its hardware design and invite commercial PC makers to copy it. In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Negroponte said the OLPC intends to make open as many aspects of its next-generation XO laptop as possible.

Negroponte added the organization is also working to improve features in netbooks. Current products, he pointed out, lack three design features: low power equal to or below 2 watts; ruggedness and the ability to be repairable easily; and displays that are readable in the sun. Such features could be made available by "non-traditional vendors".

IDC's Tan noted the OLPC has seen successes in Latin America but penetration is "very low" in regions such as the Asia-Pacific. Mini-notebooks, which emerged after OLPC's XO laptops came onto the global scene, have on the other hand "ramped up quite a lot" in the region.

While the OLPC's endeavor would likely attract some interest from local manufacturers and lead to the vendors incorporating "some of the OLPC designs into their own skills", there is also the challenge of keeping costs down.

"If there's going to be traction, I'd say it comes primarily from local, whitebox vendors in various countries that have existing desktop or nettop lines, who are looking to diversify into the portable area," said Tan. But even so, these manufacturers need to focus on the rural areas of emerging markets, he said.

Big multinational PC vendors, such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell, will continue to focus strongly on the mini-notebook market, said Tan. "There's already that competition in a way...[as] variants of OLPC start to come into the market.

"'What is the target market for this particular product' and 'Will it be competing with mini-notebooks out there'--those will be the questions which these big PC vendors will be asking," he added.

According to Tan, vendors will be most interested in copying its price and optimized operating system--a gap that has not been properly addressed in the mini-notebook market yet.

HP did not respond to ZDNet Asia's queries at the time of writing. A Dell spokesperson told ZDNet Asia the company does not believe in a "one-size-fits-all approach", adding that user demands differ according to markets or need. A Lenovo spokesperson said that it was "premature to comment" as the company does not have details on the OLPC offering.

Editorial standards