Negroponte takes on Intel

OLPC founder accuses Intel of playing hardball

There’s been a lot of reporting, today, on comments by Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the One Laptop Per Child project. Negoponte during an interview with 60 Minutes, broadcast on Sunday night, that Intel should be ashamed of itself for its tactics with regard to offering its Classmate PC. Both the OLPC laptop and the Classmate PC were designed to offer low-cost computers for school children. Here’s a link to the transcript of the interview on CBS’ Web site: Link. I would encourage ChipLand readers to read through it. And not only for the Intel comments, but also for the background on the OLPC project.

The bottom line, I think, is that if you look at providing laptops to school children strictly as a commercial venture—and let’s face it pretty much everyone but Mr. Negroponte does--Intel, AMD (provider of the OLPC's processor) and a whole range of other companies should be thrilled with what Negroponte is doing. They should all be working with him.

I have seen Mr. Negroponte speak in person. I came away believing he truly does want to help people. But, when you get down to it, he is also helping to create new markets for computers. I think it’s pretty clear that Intel realizes this and it, too, wants to be in on the ground floor. The 60 Minutes report points that out quite clearly when it produces Intel documents comparing the Classmate PC with the OLPC and asks Intel Chairman Craig Barrett about them. What you’re seeing unfold, here, is the battle for the hearts and minds of the next one, two, three, four or more million computer buyers. I don't think anyone in the computer industry can afford to ignore that fact. This won't be the last time that humanitarianism and business collide.