Walter Bender, President of Software/Content and COO for the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC), Friday blasted Intel Corp. for what he called its "disingenuous" dealings with the non profit organization.
"I can't think of a time when they were not disingenuous," said Bender, responding to Intel's decision to abandon the OLPC project after only six months working with the organization "I can't think of a single thing they said they were going to do that they actually did."
Bender said Intel, which is selling its own competing Classmate PC product to developing countries, never followed through on widely publicized promises and written agreements to assist the OLPC on software development and learning tools. "It was a lot of pie crust promises as Mary Poppins would say," said Bender. "Allegedly they were going to bring the great and mighty Intel learning team to help us, but that never happened."
Intel joined the OLPC last July after several years of tense relations with the non profit organization. Bender said that agreement with the OLPC did not end the feud. "They promised to cooperate on software content and technology and none of that cooperation came about," he said.
Intel was slated to unveil an Intel based version of the OLPC at the Consumer Electronics Show next week. Intel, however, scrapped the product, the company said, because OLPC demanded that Intel stop selling the Classmate PC.
Bender said that is not the whole story. "To isolate that piece is to distort the story," he said. "There is a difference between a reference design and Intel selling the product itself. Intel makes lots of reference designs and lots of companies out there use those reference designs to make products. We didn't ask Intel to stop doing that. But Intel doesn't sell laptops in the U.S. to compete against Dell."
The OLPC charged that even though Intel joined the organization it "continued to disparage" the OLPC product in Uruguay and Peru, in Brazil and Nigeria, which were in the midst of choosing a laptop solution and even in small and remote places like Mongolia. Bender said Intel's disparaging comments about the OLPC were delivered with "real gusto" even after the chip giant joined the organization.
"We got constant complaints from people in the field that they were being bullied by Intel," said Bender. "That was the message we got from anybody and everybody working on these educational problems in the developing world."
As to whether the fundamental difference between the two organizations was Intel's for profit status vs. OLPC's non profit status was a factor, Bender replied: "I think it certainly is a big factor in terms of what motivates people and what motivates people certainly has a big factor on their behavior."
Bender said Intel's behavior was in sharp contrast to other partners, including AMD, Red Hat, Google, eBay and others. "These guys actually get what we are trying to do," he said. "Intel doesn't."
Bender said how Intel handled the split is just another sign of the chip giant's disingenuous dealings with the organization. He said Intel issued a statement to the press "behind the back" of the OLPC, while at the same time working on a joint statement with the organization. "You tell me whether that was underhanded," added Bender.
As to the differences between the Classmate PC and the OLPC, Bender said the Intel system has a "crummy" portable DVD player like display in contrast to the OLPC product. And while the OLPC product can be solar powered or human powered with a crank for children living outside of a power grid, the Classmate PC will ultimately end up consuming more power and costing more, charged Bender.
"Intel makes a a big deal out of all they are doing for learning in the world," said Bender. "Maybe somewhere they are actually doing something. It's hard for me to see it. All I see is Intel marketing the hell out of a pretty mediocre product."