WSJ, Blogs Slam Microsoft, Intel For Hostility To OLPC

One Laptop Per Child project a Page 1 Thanksgiving weekend article

Back in 2005, Negroponte had hoped to distribute sub-$100 laptops to as many as 150 million children in developing countries within four years via the OLPC initiative. But "nearly three years later, only about 2,000 students in pilot programs have received computers from the One Laptop project," report Stecklow and Bandler.

Negroptone, it seems, didn't count on OLPC's AMD-processor and Linux-based laptops being perceived as a threat by Intel and Microsoft.

"Mr. Negroponte's ambitious plan has been derailed, in part, by the power of his idea," write the WSJ reporters.

Intel, though it recently signed on to the OLPC initiative, is pushing its own low-cost laptop alternative, the Classmate. Microsoft this year announced a $3 Windows software package tailored for students in developing countries, a move Negroponte called "a direct response to his project," according to the WSJ.

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There hasn't been a lot of love lost between the OLPC project on one side and Intel and Microsoft on the other. Intel's then-CEO Craig Barrett called a 2005 prototype of the OLPC computer "a $100 gadget." Last year, Microsoft's Bill Gates said: "Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you're not sitting there cranking the thing while you're trying to type."

Negroponte, meanwhile, seems to alternate between bashing the two tech giants and hinting that they're kinda, sorta all on the same team.

"From my point of view, if the world were to have 30 million [laptops made by competitors] in the hands of children at the end of next year, that to me would be a great success," he said recently.

But despite those sentiments, the OLPC visionary is not particularly happy with Intel's Classmate project, protesting that he doesn't want to get in a "bake off" with the more expensive laptop offered by the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant. According to the Journal, Negroponte "communicated this month with Intel's chief executive, Paul Otellini, and demanded that Intel stop selling the Classmate."

Of course, not all is well in OLPC land from a straight technology point of view, Journal sources say.

"The Intel machine is a lot better than the OLPC," Mohamed Bani, chairman of Libya's technical advisory committee, told the Journal. "I don't want my country to be a junkyard for these machines."

Stecklow and Bandler are fairly even-handed in their assessment of the situation. Bloggers, as is their wont, haven't been so kind.

In a post titled Microsoft and Intel try to make a few bucks off poor kids, SeniorNet blogger Vic Laurie writes:

On Network World, "Micronet" blogs:

Charbax Blog drops some serious charges:

Still, Intel has violated that [clause] repeatedly to kill OLPC efforts in Nigeria, Libya, Pakistan, India, China. [A]nd Intel is also still trying to pull those tactics in Mexico and Brazil. This is simply disgraceful of Intel, scandalous. But Negroponte has signed an agreement saying that he is not allowed to criticize Intel, so he is not allowed to talk about these shameless tactics, even though Intel is the one violating the agreement. In Nigeria, Intel donated 3,000 laptops to counter OLPC efforts, then sold 17,000 Classmates to Nigeria at a loss. Then Microsoft corrupted Nigerian officials with $400,000 to install Windows XP on those [Classmates] instead of Mandriva Linux."

And then there's Fake Steve Jobs, with a slightly different take on OLPC:

Lyons actually sounds serious about all this, doesn't he?