In more OLPC-related news, Intel is working directly with the Chinese government to get their Classmate PCs into the hands of Chinese kids before OLPC can get their XO off the ground. Ars Technica is reporting on Intel's efforts in China:
Intel's interest in China should not be surprising. Not only does the country have a surplus of potential Classmate PC users, but Intel has committed to building a new, historic 90nm fab there. The company has a design center in China currently tasked with finding new uses for computing power among China's largely poor, rural population. In short, Intel is serious about China, and the 90nm fab is a perfect place to see why.
Intel's interest in China may not be surprising, but their recent involvement with (and courtship of) OLPC certainly seems inconsistent with the aggressive marketing of a direct competitor to the XO in markets that could be especially attractive to OLPC. With markets reaching saturation in many western countries, companies like Intel stand to lose out on extraordinary future returns if they are shut out of (or even second to) developing markets. Perhaps this inconsistency is really just business savvy; as problems mount for OLPC, Intel needs to hedge its bets with its own products. On the other hand, if OLPC actually takes off in the way Nicholas Negroponte expects, then Intel better at least have some inroads.
As I've said before, we'll see how this plays out, but the next couple of years will no doubt be critical as new markets explode with demand for inexpensive computing. Of course, if I weren't a teacher and actually had money to invest, my bets would be on the companies that bring Internet access to these markets; OLPCs, Classmates, and emerging competitors are only expensive paperweights without the Web and will probably be commodities soon enough anyway, just like PCs in the West.