One Laptop Per Child News: Microsoft, Price, Orders, & USA


What's your OLPC reaction?
Wow! I am stunned at all the news coming out of the One Laptop Per Child analyst meeting on Thursday. The OLPC Leadership invited reporters who cover the technology field to the Boston headquarters and spoke at length about the initiative for over three hours.

The blogsphere is alight with different reactions to the four main revelations:

  • Microsoft on OLPC: As OLPC News predicted, not only will the OLPC run Windows, the OLPC Leadership is not opposed to participating countries wiping Sugar/Linux off the Children's Machine XO's and installing Windows.
  • OLPC XO is now $175: As OLPC News predicted, the XO price is now $175. This is probably due to both the BTest-3 hardware and the reduction in units. Or actually, $176 per laptop, with that dollar going to OLPC. Not the $8 million profit per order we predicted last year, but still significant at 3 million units.
  • 3 Million units @ 250,000 minimum orders: One Laptop Per Child has backed off their previous goal of a 5 million unit initial production run. They are now aiming for a 3 million unit run and have established interest in 2.5 million orders as their May 30th order deadline approaches. On the bright side, the order minimum has dropped to 250,000 units, hopefully reflecting the reality that a million units of any technology is overwhelming for developing countries.
  • XO's in USA Schools: While once dismissed as not their market, with the shortfall in orders, OLPC is now entertaining order inquires from American state governors. Apparently 19 governors have inquired, and with OLPC's mission change away from radical Constructionism, maybe we'll see OLPC in USA schools, but at $175 to $300, depending on volume.
I am still processing all the news and its impacts, and I will have exclusive information shortly, but in the mean time, please discuss your reactions in the comments section below.

Remember, if you find yourself typing a long comment, think about composing it as a post for OLPC News. We always welcome contributors and guest writers.

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I got the distinct impression that the OLPC will "accept" Windows on the 2b1 because MS have shown that they clan block the ordering of OLPC machines.

India, Thailand, and Rumenia all declared the OLPC project unfit after a (lucrative/blackmail?) visit of MS. I expect many orders now for Windows only machines.

Windows on 2b1 will kill the project:
- The 3$ Windows version is crippled and has limited networking
- No collaborative software like sugar is available
- The elaborate security will not work. Expect all 2b1's on windows to be invested with malware.
- The anti-theft measures won't work, so the laptops will be easy targets
- As the machines will be dangerous to the kids, they will be chained into the schools, and not their private laptops.
- Windows educational software is a disaster (I see it on the schools every day)


I fear Microsoft is whispering in the county's ear "buy the cheap platform, then put on 'real' software - its only $3"

Quoting Jim Morrison... "this is the end"...

So after all the "change the world" talk, now it's just a Microsoft marketing gizmo. Sad end for all the dreams.

While I'm against the design of the OLPC project, to turn the XO into a Microsoft machine is even worse. It shows that the project as such was badly designed and had little chance to succeed, but this is a disaster. To turn the world's kids into Office users is simply worthless of the effort, and reduces the XO into a marketing gimmick for politicians and marketroids.

Really sad.

I am surprised at how quickly OLPC has dropped its arrogant 1 million minimum order requirement. It wasn't so long ago that Nicholas Negroponte was quoted telling countries that couldn't order 1 million were not welcome unless they formed a consortium with other countries - approaching OLPC only as a single entity.

Now, its a $17.6 million buy in, instead of a $150 million gamble on technology in education.

Anyone want some humble pie?

The sad part is not Microsoft's involvement. The sad part is seeing how Negroponte will do ANYTHING to mke his project a reality. The children's education has always been no more than a marketing ploy.

Something VERY important to note: there's no proof that Microsoft even wants or needs to become partners with OLPC at this point, with Negroponte's project looking weaker by the day.
All the news are coming from OLPC, not Microsoft or Apple or anyone else, so we don't really know how accurate the picture is at this point. I suspect this is just a desperation move by Negroponte: offer Microsft compatibility to make the project more attractive to prospective buyers...

Well, let's not see everything so black.
If Prof. Negroponte had not set the initial quantities to 1 million he would not have achieved the number of orders he has now. Now short before the order date to Quanta he reduces this limit to 100'000 in order to cram in some more "low volume" orders with the aim to maximize that first batch and therefore to keep the unit price as low as possible. I don't think this was arrogance but smart tactics.

Then it is also smart that OLPC publically accept MS-SW on XO's and let the customers (ministers of education) decide. In case the customers are a priori in favor of MS due to politics or bribery or whatever OLPC cannot prevent it anyway. But it can at least take advantage by selling XO's to them and achieve a better production volume and a lower price. Those ministers who decide based on educational impact will still choose XO's with open-source-SW provided OLPC's content will convince them. Here OLPC probably still has a weak spot because they have not shown a detailed curriculum and content to go with it. Of course MS hasn't even shown a concept. XP and MSOffice is not yet an education concept.

So the first to come up with convincing content will make the race. And here open-source-SW has several advantages.
1. There is already some content around in the open-source world like skole-linux or edubuntu and others. So OLPC has a head start.
2. This SW is free! Not even 3$ for licence fees!
3. The open-source OS (Redhat Linux with Sugar) is tailored for the XO's. MS' OS (a crippled XP) will never provide the same performance and security.

I think OLPC has not betrayed the open-source ideal. They just chose to fight that battle where it really counts: with the ministers and not in the media.
And they still have good chances to win the majority of those battles if OLPC shifts its focus to content very fast and leaves the choice to the ministers who are the paying customers.

This competition among hardware and software offers will increase the quality available to all kids. So it should be welcomed by everybody in the same way OLPC welcomes it.

Woops - seems I misheard OLPC's minimum order number. It should be 250,000 laptops, not 100K. But 100k or 250k, its still a huge drop from 1 million, yet a minimum investment of $4,375,000 dollars.

I've changed the original post to reflect the correct information

Here is the link to Microsoft's "Student Innovation Suite" which they probably intend to port to the XO.

When you have a closer look at it you will find out that it consists basically only of MS Office, an e-mailer and a basic math program. Although a web browser is not even mentioned, the inevitable MS-Internet-Explorer is probably part of it, too. In short, most of this suite is of little use for educating 6-12 year-olds.

The following sentences from that page sound like an unintended joke:

"Working with Microsoft Office Word, PowerPoint®, and Excel®, Learning Essentials helps students achieve better grades. Step-by-step writing tips and preformatted report and presentation templates give students a quick start in creating great-looking reports and presentations."

Let MS continue that way. Then OLPC, Redhat and the open-source-community have still a good chance to out-do MS by light-years if they do not wait too long with presenting their version of educational content.

Within a month 50% of the M$ machines will be so infested as to be worthless. Who is going to re-install software there is no way a virus checker designed for M$ products will run with those constraints. This will become a disaster thanks to people willing to take anything M$ has to proffer.

I think Bill Gates & co should reconsider their deal because now they will have a real world test of how vulnerable M$ products really are. The countries that order with Sugar installed will still be up and running six months from delivery, the rest will be blaming America for selling them substandard merchandise because they don't have enough experience to make the correct decision.

Lastly, ask yourselves how much of this scope creep or price bloat for hardware has to do with trying to get M$ on-board? Interesting that M$ should choose a $3 price factor, which amounts to exactly the amount of profit they might make at current pricing, how nice of them to bleed the organization that is promoting their products.

I have to stop, the addition of M$ to the project is a perversion of the original intent.

Roland, I don't think the point here are OLPC "open source ideals", but their decision to change their emphasis from education towards whatever Microsoft may bring into the equation (not education, I'm sure of).

However misguided, the clear, definite intent of OLPC was education. I think they made a terrible mistake when they turn the computer into a self-contained solution to all the worries of education in the Third World, and started to push the machine to politicians and assorted air-heads in places like Davos, instead of approaching educators and people with knowledge of the realities of living and educational standards in the target countries. But at least they wanted it to be an educational tool that happened to be a computer, and that relied on open source because there was no alternative in the commercial sector.

Now, turning the computer into a still-hubristic design but one that runs Microsoft is the worst of both worlds. It abandons the educational focus; it relies on crappy software that cannot be used as a learning tool nor can be tore apart by the students, as per the geek dreams of many. And finally, it surrenders the tool into the designs of all the silly "IT educators" that believe that cute fonts and flashy transitions enhance education.

So I fail to see any silver lining here.

Redhat Vs Microsoft in OLPC arena

"As OLPC News predicted, not only will the OLPC run Windows..."

This was publicly announced by Negroponte months ago. This was the stated reason from the SD slot. No prediction needed.

so after all, mr. negroponte et al., is it ok to teach excel and word to our kids?


plz for god sake.... NO MICROSOF!!! they really suck!