I was asked by the editor of OLPC News to comment on the sales of the Intel Classmate PC based on my experiences seeing its marketing while visiting Colombia this month. I have also seen its competition, the ASUS Eee PC being sold there the past 2 years. These events have happened while people asked me where they could purchase an OLPC XO that I had shown them.
My basic response to those interested in the OLPC XO has been to say that they needed to purchase one via Ebay.com, since I had arrived in Colombia after the G1G1 program had ended the past 2 years. Just shipping an envelope via FedEx to Colombia costs $50, so most would not get the XO from my suggested source after paying the initial Ebay price.
I was visiting the local Carrefour in Cali, Colombia last week and saw an Intel Classmate PC for sale. It was 809,000 pesos or $323. The machine was using the Intel Atom processor and had Windows XP on it. I just had to take a picture!
It appears that Intel has been licensing out its design to various computer manufacturers throughout the world. Portugal has been building them and now I found out that PCsmart from Colombia also is building them.
Hugo Chavez, the current President of Venezuela, just bought a bundle of Classmates from Portugal with the Linux operating system, but he probably could have gotten a better deal if he had purchased a bundle from Colombia, his next door neighbor.
Being on the outside of Intel & OLPC, I think that possibly the OLPC could have sold many more XO's around the world if they could have agreed to follow Intel's suggestions more fully before their partnership ended. Intel has the deep pockets and OLPC is looking for handouts to fund its operation. That reality is beginning to show that OLPC is now a cash strapped nonprofit challenged to cover its operating expenses.
We don't know what Intel's intentions were with OLPC totally before the breakup, but afterwards it looks like they have adapted the approach of big government sales as well as small individual sales. Intel is building their machine within regional parts of the globe and OLPC is just building their XO in Taiwan.
The PCsmart build of the Intel Classmate is being sold at the big box stores in Colombia. Carrefour and Exito are just a few of the stores, but actually that is where the movers and shakers within Colombia shop in a suburban American mall like experience. The $323 retail price is of course higher than the wholesale price.
It looks like OLPC is not going to be implementing small scale sales in the near future. They also seem to have forgotten the idea that service is required after the sale. For example, one school district nearby my house in the USA will be getting hundred's of XO's for their schools.
Yet, it was I that showed the administrators during my job interview what the XO could do for them beyond the basics! That school even planned to give out the computers to the oldest students leaving the school district the soonest. Where was OLPC beyond Negroponte showing up for an initial PR photo shoot?
Intel saw that the OLPC XO did not have the power to run YouTube videos adequately, so their computer may have used more energy but gives a better viewing experience. Yes, the Classmate with the Atom processor is even faster and has more memory than my PC desktop I am using now.
One of the school administrators I spoke about earlier told me that our kids would not want to see videos. It seems to me that OLPC's leadership also has taken the same unrealistic attitude. An underpowered machine would not be noticed or needed to ever do more. That is why no memory can be added!
In summary, my friends living in Colombia basically have no choice but to purchase a PCsmart Intel Classmate or another one of its small competitors when they want to become small scale laptop donors. Sugar on a stick may soon be available to them, so some of the uniqueness of the XO can be available to them.
Greg Yohn is the proud father of a son born into an XO family in Colombia