In the OLPC Overivew (pdf), I calculated from all the numbers floating about that One Laptop Per Child has shipped a cumulative 750,000 XO laptops worldwide through March 2009, give or take a few thousand.
While that's impressive for a start-up nonprofit that didn't have a working prototype until -2007, Digitimes is reporting that Intel shipped 700,000 Classmate PC's in 2008 alone. But a tie game in laptop distribution is not a shocker - Intel's prediction that it will sell over two million Classmate PCs in 2009 is:
Intel has forecast that its Classmate PC shipments in 2009 will break two million units, surging from 700,000 units in 2008, according to sources at notebook vendors. Currently, Intel is aggressively trying to cut into rural areas in China partnering with local vendor Haier, and has also landed procurement orders from emerging markets in Europe and Southeastern Asia.
It seems Intel may be succeeding where OLPC failed - China. From the start, OLPC has eyed China and India as the two real keys to its $100 laptop goal. And from the start, both countries rebuffed offers for computer-enabled learning. India's OLPC backstory was easy to read, they're not too keen on another Negroponte-led adventure. But China's resistance to XO laptops is harder to parse.
Maybe its the view that they could design an build an XO themselves, without the need for OLPC. The XO is already made in Changshu. Maybe it was Sugar, the Chinese wanting a more Asian-centric operating system. Or maybe it was basic Chinese pride in their own educational system. Who needs Constructivism when you have 2,000 of Confucian educational excellence?
Right now, OLPC needs another hit. They need a big sale. If Intel takes the marketing lead with a significant Chinese order, we'll need more than ad men in black to save the day.
Intel just unveiled the Kaleidoscope HCQ 890 Tablet PC from Hanvon, China's leading manufacturer of character recognition technology. Based on the Classmate clam shell design, with Chinese-language software and a Longman dictionary for practicing English. You can read the press release here.