US-Vietnam 10,000 XO Laptop Purchase Problems


A quiver of XO's please

I am Bill Singer, Project Director, E-Learning Vietnam Project, US-Vietnam Program. Bringing Education to rural Vietnam is part of the US-Vietnam Project charter. Providing laptops is a critical part of the Project and we are optimistic that the OLPC laptop will be part of our solution for delivering E-Learning.

Unfortunately, our initial experience with One Laptop Per Child where we attempted to order four laptops to evaluate as part of a 10,000 unit order revealed significant barriers in XO buying programs, order process and warranty and field service operations.

The following feedback is provided in order that One Laptop Per Child understands the US-Vietnam Project needs so the appropriate operating adjustments are made that enable a strong, effective working relationship.

Appropriate Buying Programs:
No one at OLPC had the time to deal with our 10,000 unit order and we were directed to the Give One Get One "G1G1" program. Simply put, G1G1 is not the approach appropriate for a large scale project like ours, which is to evaluate the actual OLPC laptop being manufactured today in order to insure that the laptop performs as advertised, and then and only then to make incremental purchases of 10,000 laptops for each phase of deployment.

Our request is for a buying program that anticipates this scenario. Current models for testing and phased purchases are a fairly standard approach to deployment in both private and public sector projects.

Order/Delivery Process:
I did engage the OLPC/G1G1 program to order the 4 laptops and found the experience very disappointing. After waiting 30 minutes to get a live person the service desk informed us after we received our order confirmation number that the order for 4 laptops would possibly take two to three months to be delivered. It did not matter that these were units for evaluation for a much larger order. First come, first served. No exceptions.

Once the order was placed, visibility of this transaction totally disappeared. There is no method to use the confirmation number to track the order status. This makes it impossible for our business to plan for when we can evaluate the units.

Warranty and Field Service:
Our warranty and field service questions did not receive specific answers and we were told that it is being addressed. It is critical that we can rely on warranty service to be provided in Vietnam. The G1G1 30-day repair or replace warranty program is insufficient for any large-scale non-USA order.

Other companies facing the challenging of scaling in this environment have successfully engaged contract manufactures to handle the entire distribution process cost effectively. Quanta Computer should also have a distribution network that would enable quicker delivery, appropriate service and warranty support with responsive specific spare parts depots to keep necessary parts available for quick repairs.

We welcome the opportunity help guide OLPC to develop an appropriate buying program that is responsive to large-scale orders for developing world countries, like Vietnam.

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Wayne you are a nob head stop looking for problems and accept the fact that OLPC IS A SUCCESS.


OLPC is a success - if you define it as showing that clock-stopping laptop can be manufactured and sold to alpha-geek Americans & Canadians. But Apple did that a while ago.

OLPC is not yet a success if its an education project to enhance children's lives in the developing world. Its a work in progress that often doesn't make much progress or sense in the method in which it tires to spread its technology-empowered mission.

Bill is one of many who are experiencing problems trying to implement Nicholas Negroponte's vision in practical and logical fashion. People Negroponte should be celebrating and facilitating, not frustrating.

Boy oh boy, lots of foul-ups and lost opportunities here. But let's keep it in perspective. Olpc is trying to do something both large and never before attempted, so we should expect many mistakes at the beginning. But on the positive side, it has fabulous technology, smart people running it, lots of financial and organizational support, and many parties interested in purchasing the laptops. We should expect that things will sort themselves out over the next few months, and the laptops will be getting out in a reasonably quick and efficient manner to whomever wants them.

Oh my god - you're serious - OLPC is offering a whopping 30-day (!) warranty on these units. That had better not be even near its low-quartile lifespan, or else the war is lost.

Negroponte has only recently come to terms with the fact that his initial distribution model isn't practical. In the last month or so, the OLPC foundation has had to come up with a new distribution model and the necessary infrastructure to support it. Naturally, that's no small task. In the mean time, we'll just have to be patient and realize that at least their hearts are in the right place, even if there are a few problems in the beginning.

OLPC's donation website could perhaps be easier to navigate, but it shouldn't have been too much trouble to find this page:

G1G1 is for individuals, for personal use. If you're an NGO, that's the link you want.

OLPC appears unprepared to aid organizations interested in making laptop purchases. They seem focused on selling to governments, to individual with their Give 1 Get 1 program and collecting donations.

OLPC needs to be true to its vision - "To provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves".

If a charity/organization expresses a sincere desire to participate in the program and the need meets with OLPC guidelines, they should be given a warm welcomed. They should never be directed to the Give 1 Get 1 program for evaluation purposes.

Ben, personal G1G1 or group purchases isnt the issue. Restricting this to US and Canada is the issue. Failing to come up with government orders is also the issue. Ending up with a price twice what was originally suggested (or hyped) is the issue.

Bill Singer probably needed to start his own OLPC Vietnam movement early in the year in order to qualify for inclusion in the testing and get some sample units. Now he comes along at the last minute and discovers:
"No one at OLPC had the time to deal with our 10,000 unit order"

Bill, thats a fair chunk of plastic and for $2 million I'd say they'd be reasonably keen to entertain you. At least Nick Negroponte should have flown over to Vietnam to shake your hand in front of a group of kids, press in attendance.

I dont think we're hearing the whole story.

The delivery time frame for new orders is now 2 to 3 months out according to the above article. If that is the case, the Give 1 Get 1 program is doing quite well.

You're right Robert. Let my cynical side visualize the rest of the conversation between Negroponte and Singer:

Negroponte: So you want to order 10,000? Great! Send the $2 million check to....

Singer: Wait, I want four now, and if they are as you promise, we'll buy 1,000 this year, implement in Q108, buy 2,500 in April, implement in Q208, buy 2,500 in July...

Negroponte: What, you're not buying 10,000 now on faith? You can't just pass laptops out at schools tomorrow?

Singer: No, we're going to have a phased approach, starting with a pilot test. Its industry best practices.

Negroponte: Oh, then use G1G1. We're about miracles at Give Many and pilots are ridiculous:

Damn I hate my cynical side sometimes.

But you all should knwo that Bill isn't the first person to write me with frustration over the Give Many program. He's just the first one who is willing to submit a guest post about it.

I've heard from others with $100,000 to $1 million who want to buy laptops at $200 each for their own education projects. They too are being denied the opportunity to implement OLPC's mission of changing education through technology.

And the worst part - their collective laptop purchases would help drive down the XO laptop price from $200 to something cose to $100

On Wayan's last point, I wonder how much of the reduction in price in the future would be coming from mass production of the laptop, and how much would be due to the various commodity parts in the laptop dropping in price just due to Moore's law and their being sold in large numbers in various other products (ie flash memory chips)?

I mention this because if the price drop is mostly due to olpc mass production, then there is a sort of catch-22: you can't get low prices without high production, but as long as prices are high sales would likely stay low. But if a large proportion of the price reduction is due to other factors, then olpc could limp along for a couple of years at production levels much below what Negroponte originally planned, but the price could still eventually get down to the point where sales would really take off.

What really excites me is the XO getting down to $50 dollars. At that point it is so cheap that villages or individuals in developing countries could just go ahead and buy their own, at least one per family, like is now happening with cell phones.

And a related point: would ClassMate, Asus, et al follow the price down, or would they continually upgrade capacity and keep prices at present levels to preserve profits, as regular laptop producers have done at a higher level for a good while?

I think you guys get it all wrong here. You should look at the G1G1 program as "Make a donation of $399 and get a GIFT in return".
As a gift, a 30 day warranty is perfectly reasonable...
And there is no 10,000 laptop purchase problem here, Mr. Bill Singer is not yet ready to buy 10,000 laptop. He is trying to get couple machines for evaluation.
Can't we hold any complains and wait a little longer (couple months)?

OLPC is about kiddie elearning. The software provided is meant to be different and uniquely for kids.

If you want a more general equipping for elearning, see the example at

Should you wish to insist having laptops, then the Hacao (Puppy Linux) laptops are all ready for you.

In my opinion, Bill is using the wrong place to complain about his problems. He should talk to OLPC directly. Or does OLPC News want to publish each and every complaint about OLPC? You should rename yourself to "OLPC complaint department".


Bill did try to work it out with OLPC but didn't get any satisfaction. That's why I published his missive on OLPC News - to try to get OLPC to respond.

In the past, a post on OLPC News has been a very effective means to get OLPC to address a serious problem. Let's hope this will be the case for Bill too.

Birmingham, Alabama has been able to order 15,000 XO's, but maybe that is a different sort of situation.


Birmingham's OLPC buy is just a post-election grandstand by the new mayor. If you read the article closely you'll note that:

"Katopodis said some details remain to be worked out. A spokeswoman for the Boston-based foundation said talks are being held this week about implementing the program. "OLPC has agreed to consider his request and to that effect will be holding talks this week about how such program may be implemented," Lustig said in a statement.

Langford, whose inauguration is today, said the money will come from private sector donations as well as the city budget. "I have to get the City Council on the same page," he said. "We all have to go in and just say what we're going to do. There will be tough decisions."

The criticism by Bill and Wayan is totally spot on and also reflects the experience and comments we've heard ourselves.

It's outright ridiculous to even expect anyone (whether it's a local community, a large NGO or a government) to pull out the plastic and pay north of 20K for the smallest possible "give many" order!

What OLPC needs to do, and do as soon as possible (!), is to come up with a new way for people and other entities who want to support the project (whether it's in the form of developing software, educational content or implementation) to be able to access the actual laptops.

I spoke to SJ Klein about this issue earlier in the week (especially since we need about ~25 machines for the above mentioned reasons here in Austria) and he told me that "I have a solution in mind, and if they can wait a bit, I can think about this more in two weeks. In the interim, can you capture the specific interest on the wiki here?

So I guess the best thing to do at the moment is to add your requests to that list and check back in 2 weeks to see whether the new programm has been put in place.

An odd thing either late yesterday or this morning...

Checking my email I received another email confirmation (a "Thank You") for my original G1G1 purchase done on 11/12. However, there was no further information about shipping and the like.

Did everyone get this second email acknowledgement?

OK, two points:

1) OLPC is NOT Apple. They're NOT Dell. They're NOT a for-profit company. They are trying to build a non-profit computer company from scratch that will specialize in making a low-power, low-power-consumption, low-cost laptop, ideally meant for 3rd World kids. It takes a certain mixture of idealism, bravery, stupidity and insanity to move forward with a project like this AT ALL, let alone get this far with it. Give OLPC a break. They're run by humans and we're all flawed and make mistakes.

Treating OLPC like IBM is not only a mistake, it's unfair. A 30 day warranty is more than I expected, frankly. I'm an early adopter, generally, so I'm used to getting screwed. I care even less here since I'm contributing to that idealism/bravery/stupidity/insanity mix that just might change the world for the better and guess what folks, it *already has*.

The eee and the Classmate PCs are both excellent examples of machines that *would not exist* had OLPC not pointed to an unexploited market. So, stop your complaining, please, and simply express what isn't being done so people can help get it done. Drop this sense of entitlement, because what's happening with OLPC is amazing and the world we live in is built to crush groups like OLPC into a fine, white powder.

Just be patient and calm and realize that this whole damn thing could fall apart tomorrow.

2) Of course, another person who should drop the sense of entitlement is good old NickNeg, himself. He's doing something that is damn-near impossible--that doesn't mean you can't be smart about it and choose the best possible balance between helping the 3rd World and helping the 1st. By helping us rich white geeks (well, all of us in the US are rich and white, compared to the rest of the world) he can help get the word about OLPC out there (advertising to other rich, white geeks who want to help 3rd World kids).

In the past few weeks I've been telling my friends about the XO. Out of about five or six of them, only one person had heard of the XO... because she read about it on my blog. Include us in the plan so we can get the word out to other rich white folks. Imagine if George Clooney or Angelina Jolie heard about OLPC--they'd want to deliver the XOs to 3rd World kids themselves, in person.

Instead, the plan is kind of squirrelly and confusing and doesn't even vaguely resemble a traditional business model. Granted, this isn't a traditional business, but this *is* still planet Earth. Nick can't have everything his way--in fact, as I mentioned, I think he's lucky to have gotten this far.

OK, I lied, here's third point:

The thing that I feel most people are missing is that even if everyone in the 1st world switches to hybrid cars, fluorescent bulbs and recycles every last thing they can, we'll all still be using WAY too much energy and resources. We all need to shrink our footprint on the planet. The XO has all sorts of great power-saving abilities on it. It's already gotten awards for it's greenness, can't it be billed as the energy-efficient, environmentally friendly laptop to 1st Worlders? Charge us more for each lappie (this is money we'll save in energy bills) and take the extra cash and use it to pay for XOs to go to 3rd Worlders.

Ultimately, I think Nick is too much like his brother who has been accused of being among the worst of the white men in the 1st World. You can't just walk in and tell the world how it's going to be. However, if the world likes what you want to do, it just might want to help if you're not a jerk about it.

So, my family decided to donate our Christmas gift budget to a charity like OLPC by purchasing eight (8) XO laptops. However, no one at OLPC could tell me when I would receive the four laptops and who and where the other four laptops would go to! They also could not tell me who is going to fix the machines if they break down after the ridiculous 30-day warranty.

Guess what, I'm going to go to Walmart and purchase their "green" desktop running Linux for $199 and donate them to a school of my choosing! This way, I have total control of how my charity money is spent and the machines have a one-year warranty.

Also, if the program is to provide an end-user device of e-learning, why does it have to be a laptop? Australia's opposition party leader, Mr. Rudd, has proposed a new nation-wide education policy to provide "one computer per child". Charity begins at home!


Sheesh. Why do people expect OLPC to be Dell? And even if they were, I had massive problems with an iBook a few years back and went through hell to get the issue resolved--why is ANYone expecting comparable miracles from OLPC??

When you don't get perfect service from Apple or Dell, how can you expect perfect service from a non-profit??

Sorry, I should just stop reading these comments...


We don't expect OLPC to be Dell, but we do expect a basic response to "When will I get my XO?" - a question I had to answer this morning to my betrothed when I told her I bought two.

In addition, since OLPC is all about getting laptops to kids, the response that Bill and others' received is even more shocking. You would think that OLPC would be falling over themselves to work with a committed partner with cash to spend.

Please give OLPC some slack! I can't buy my 8 XO's because I live in Norway (the card won't work, can't pay).

But I guess they are DDOSed right now, they can't handle all the requests they get. So I can well understand that they have to do what they can to get on top.

But, oh, how I would love for them to have an international G1G1 option soon.

i ordered the xo on 11/12, i haven't heard from g1g1 since. i only have confirmation that from paypal that i paid. i'm concerned that it went to the right place. i've emailed g1g1 twice, and tried calling. no reponse from emails, no answer from the call.
this is no way to roll out a new product. they should have anticipated the response and had people ready to to answer questions and respond to people who care. this is not a good omen, i only hope they contact me soon, or i'll have to get a refund. i hate to do it, but i can give to KIVA as i have done in the past.

@ThePete: The reason one expects OLPC to be like Dell or IBM (and not to be "perfect" since we all know those comapnies are not perfect), is because when you are trying to coordinate an e-learning, non-profit, humanitarian deal, there is enough hassles to be had all around that the last thing you want is a hassle from your supply. Add to that that OLPC could probably find a basic order management provider that would donate services for free in exchange for the free press, and I fail to see why OLPC is unable to do such basic things right.

Profit or non, any organization should strive to make things easy on any relationship forged, not make it hard.

If OLPC had half a brain they'd non-exclusively licence the design to the hardware supply companies and let them get on with what they do so well - distributing laptops. The royalties would then finance OLPC to do their charity works in the third world. That would be a win-win for everybody. And yes I'd buy one for my grandaughter.

Toi den tu Viet Nam. Xin cho toi hoi la chung nao Chuong Trinh nay moi co mat o Viet Nam boi vi dat nuoc chung toi dang can Tin Hoc Hoa. Xin chan thanh cam on.

Dear Sir / Madam ,

My name is Andrei Manuel Neagoe , I am from Romania and I am strongly motivated to find a job in Vietnam . My intention if it is possible is to live for a period of time or all the rest of my life in Vietnam. In my opinion Vietnam is a wonderful country with a wonderful people. Also I would like very much to learn your language and I have already read a lot of literature about this country, so I am accustomed with the conditions and culture there.. For this the first step for me is to have a job there and in this sense I would like you to help me find a job there. I Am looking forward for your answer . Also I send you my CV .

Best Regards ,

Andrei Manuel Neagoe Address : 56 Colinei St. 105400 , Breaza , Romania

e-mail address :

Dear Bill,

Hopefully you get an e-mail when someone replies here!

Found your post here. I am moving to Vietnam soon, and would like to help out as a volunteer computer teacher.