OLPC Foundation is XO Donations, OLPC Association is XO Sales

   
   
   
   
   

And let the dueling interviews begin! Yesterday, we heard from Nicholas Negroponte on Marvell's $5.3 million dollar grant to the OLPC Foundation, and today, we have Chuck Kane and Walter Bender promoting the OLPC Association in a Xconomy interview.


Chuck Kane of OLPC Association

OLPC Foundation is Donations, OLPC Association is Sales

The main insight I got from the interview was the real split between the OLPC Foundation and the OLPC Association. Here is how Xconomy describes the two:

The OLPC Foundation, led by Negroponte, is continuing to develop a next generation computer while also pursuing new opportunities to bring laptops to places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Gaza - parts of the world where, in Kane's words, "our intention is to provide by way of some kind of donation computers to the children in those areas." That work, he says, is proceeding apace - and we will have more from Negroponte in the next few days.

The other big block is the OLPC Association, which is what Kane is part of. It is basically the business end of the enterprise, working with customers - most of them so far in South America - that buy computers rather than acquiring them by way of donations. This is the side of OLPC that handles sales, manufacturing, the supply chain, and so forth

It's interesting to note who is where in these two organizations. Nicholas Negroponte, ever the charismatic salesperson yet short on implementation vision, is focused on giving XO's away to those that are desperate. Yet the Association is a bit more practical, being that its dealing with paying customers who expect a bit more than a drop and run.

OLPC Association Makes a Profit on XO Laptop Sales

In addition to the description of the two organizations, Chuck Kane told of the OLPC Association's new approach to XO laptop sales - the inclusion of a profit margin. Chuck Kane says that OLPC Association now includes a "very small" profit on every XO sale.

My feelings on this are very simple: it is about damn time!

OLPC Association needs to make a profit on XO sales, that's the only way it can become self-sustaining over the long run. Now profit doesn't need to mean "the maximum the market will bear" like normal computer manufacturers. It can be the minimum total needed to run OLPC divided by the number of XO's sold.

And OLPC needs to get that profit going fast. The $5.3 million dollar grant from Marvell went to the OLPC Foundation, not the Association, I don't see Uruguay, Paraguay or Peru donating to non-local OLPC organizations, and in this economy, there isn't much corporate largess for either OLPC entities.

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4 Comments

Interesting. I suppose it's too silly to point out that selling XOs in the developed nations might be a source of income.

I'm still -- after two years -- getting questions like 'where can I buy one?' whenever somebody sees me hacking away on my XO-1 at the local coffee shop. And I have to answer "eBay". Mabe OLPC-A should consider becoming an eBay seller?

Huzzah! We've only been asking for this for, what, almost five years?? This is great news; I only hope the Association side will be flexible with their sales, and consider selling any number of XOs to anyone. If you really want to build an ecosystem for the XO, individuals have to be able to get their hands on them!

Uruguay, Paraguay and Peru may not be interested in donating money to buy computers for kids in other countries but that is not the only type of donation.

I would hope that these countries would be interested in sharing their experiences, deployment procedures, lesson plans with sugar and the OLPC Association and Foundation.

They could also be a useful place to recruit teachers and technicians with valuable hands on experience - valuable enough to pay for.

This type of bootstrap cascade will be neccessary if OLPC is to succeed.

Joe, as outlined in this article particularly Uruguay is definitely very keen on sharing its experiences and knowledge with other organizations and countries. ParaguayEduca on the other hand has open-sourced some of the backend software is has developed for its OLPC project. Additionally people from both countries are collaborating on the Sugar platform.

So overall we're definitely starting to see some of the things you have in mind... :-)

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