Has anyone considered the safety of children owning XO's? No I am not talking about internet porn, I am Erwin Hermann and I am talking about what will happen if OLPC makes good on its threat to end the sale of XO's to consumers on December 31.
Consider for a moment what will happen after hundreds of thousands of kids get their XO's in the US and Canada. Most of them will probably want to show their friends and teachers. What will happen then?
Unmet XO Demand
By this time in January several million children will be clamoring for XO's of their own. Demand for the XO is going to skyrocket right at the point that OLPC cuts off supply. With no retail supply of XO's the only supply will be online auctions.
Will your child be safe carrying around one of the hottest, and scarcest pieces of consumer electronics ever released? Now I can hear someone saying "But it's not a consumer product- it's an educational mission!" As if this will somehow protect children from getting robbed, beaten, or even killed for having in their possession something that will be even more of a neon sign for theft than an iPod.
If there is one thing that has been shown over and over, when demand is much greater than supply, the gap between supply and demand can be violent. A consumer product is not defined by the manufacturer, it is defined by the consumer.
Any product where there is a demand among a significant number of consumers - it doesn't matter if it's iPods, Playstation 3's, drugs, or XO's - if there is a demand for it, someone will try to supply it.
Another Supply Route
I also wonder what will happen in third world countries if consumer demand for XO's skyrockets after the supply is cut off from OLPC. If XO's average selling price tops $1,000 on eBay (or elsewhere) how long will it be before we start seeing them disappearing in schools in the third world and start seeing eBay auctions with phrases like "XO Laptop - No Reserve, Guaranteed Unlocked- with free shipping from Nigeria!"
I bet faster than you can say "eBay sales are inevitable".
Yes I know about Bitfrost. But will the eager bidders know about it? They might find out after they receive it (or not- all security can be broken) but by then it will be too late. And the seller will be on to his next mark.
Will governments want to purchase millions of XO laptops for their children if they see thefts and robberies and black market trading in the devices proliferate? Perhaps they will decide to go with the safer Intel machine which has no consumer demand.
I can only hope that someone in the OLPC ivory tower is aware of the dangerous scenario they will create if they stop the G1G1 program with no other supply in the works after that. I hope that OLPC has the good sense to be the primary supplier to the first world, and not leave it to the black market.