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What's next for OLPC?

So where exactly is OLPC headed now that they are cutting staff, cutting salaries, and turning over Sugar development to the community?Negroponte tells usThis restructuring is also the result of an exciting new direction for OLPC.
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Written by Christopher Dawson on

So where exactly is OLPC headed now that they are cutting staff, cutting salaries, and turning over Sugar development to the community?

Negroponte tells us

This restructuring is also the result of an exciting new direction for OLPC. Our technology initiatives will focus on:

1. Development of Generation 2.0 2. A no-cost connectivity program 3. A million digital books 4. Passing on the development of the Sugar Operating System to the community.

To me, this actually sounds like a fine idea, assuming that "Development of Generation 2.0" means creating reference designs for local OEMs to customize appropriately for their own populations, Intel Classmate style. If creating a no-cost connectivity program means working with local telcos and cellular providers to get kids online cheaply (as has been done through Portugal's Magellan program, where government subsidies and mobile providers are making Classmate-based PCs available to very large numbers of kids at very low cost), then this is a recipe for success.

Does a million digital books mean working with publishers and governments to adopt and create content for standardized educational ebook readers? How about actually developing a standard?

Sugar has a lot of potential as another one of these revolutionary moves in the way we interact with computers and others online around us. The open source community, I have no doubt, will take this and run with it. It has potential, even, for monetization in mobile devices and other kid-centric netbooks.

Essentially, OLPC needs to reinvent itself as a research and development organization with public policy and educational arms. The group still has smart, experienced developers, a reasonable amount of political capital, and some bright folks who know a lot about the ways kids can use computers to enhance learning. If OLPC stops trying to be the Dell of the developing world, they can find a lot of success in a post-laptop, educational netbook world. If they keep trying to build, market, and sell computers, there's a lovely recession waiting to claim the rest of an organization that has a lot to give to education, both in emerging and developed markets.

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