The Real OLPC Bust: G1G1 2008 XO Laptop Sales

   
   
   
   
   
negroponte
Low sales means empty seats

When I predicted that Give 1 Get 1 2008 would only be 10% of the G1G1 2007 XO laptop sales volume and impact, I was hoping to be proven wrong. It turns out I was off in my estimation, but not the way I wanted to be.

G1G1 2008 sales were only 7% of 2007's, according to Nicholas Negroponte in the Boston Globe. :

During the 2008 holiday season, the program sold only about 12,500 laptops and generated a mere $2.5 million - a 93 percent decline from the year before. "That was a real shocker," said Negroponte, adding that it forced the foundation to slash its $12 million annual budget. "We will reduce ourselves to running at closer to $5 million," he said.

So OLPC's refocusing is not due to "tough economic times" faced by other nonprofits, as Negroponte led us to believe in his email.

The half staff sack is directly related to competitive pressures brought on by OLPC's success in G1G1 2007. When a nonprofit can sell 185,000 laptops, generating $37 million in revenue in only six weeks, commercial laptop manufactures get their own game on.

Now a plethora of 4P Computers from Asus, Acer, and others are crowding into the "netbook" category that OLPC started with the XO.

In 2008 potential donors and consumers had a greater choice in laptops that, unlike the XO, are adult-centric in form factor, software, and support. In fact, here's a dirty little secret from the OLPC News headquarters: Santa didn't G1G1 this Christmas.

He bought a HP 1035NR Netbook for the wife to use while nursing our daughter. To quote Negroponte himself:

"We're not the newest story in town. The novelty has worn off."
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No OLPC Retail Sales? I'm Still Not Convinced | Clone of One Laptop Per Child News | December 10, 2009

44 Comments

Wayan wrote:

"So OLPC's refocusing is not due to 'tough economic times' faced by other nonprofits, as Negroponte led us to believe in his email."

No surprises there; the Nutty Professor is a sneaky fellow, all right.

In fact, the $2.5 million revenue (and any revenue from any number of sales - 12.500 laptops or 100 million laptops) was NOT to be allocated to operating expenses. That money was supposed to fund the donation of an equal number of laptops sent to poor people in different parts of the world. That's what buyers were told: you're paying for yours plus one for a poor kid somewhere.

So, how come he was counting on the "profits" to continue the non-profit party?

Sneaky, sneaky fellow...

You bring up a good point, Irving. All G1G1 funds are to be applied to laptops for children in the developing world. Or so its implied in the marketing documents they use.

The 2008 IRS Form 990 should be quite interesting then.

If any G1G1 donor money was used for operations, that could be a breach of donor trust. Some state AG's take great pleasure in suing NGOs that use donor directed funds in a whole other manner.

Some portion of G1G1-2008 donor money was to be allocated to operational expenses. This was known to the tech team, many of whom objected strenuously to this being done without donors knowing explicitly in some small print.

If OLPC diverted G1G1 funds to operations, when all the marketing talked about the donor funds being used to get laptops to developing countries, that could be seen as a breach of trust by donors, or worse by AG's.

Nice write-up. You missed one detail :)

"Now a plethora of 4P Computers from Asus, Acer, and others are crowding into the "netbook" category that OLPC started with the XO."

Asus, acer, and others also employed the age-old technology sales tactic of *New and Improved!*

It's shocking to me that, with flash prices falling off the map, OLPC's 2008 G1G1 offered the 2007 model. In this business, who does that?!
In 2012, will OLPC still offer 256mb RAM and 1GB flash due to opaque concerns about reconfiguring assembly lines?

Component-by-component, the same XO should be cheaper this year than last, unless there's a warehouse full of old XO's that needs be emptied, and if so, the plan isn't working.

Again, i love my 2007 XO hardware. I'm just shocked that, if i'd had the money to blow, i couldn't have gotten a better one this year.

Non-profit doesn't mean brain-dead. It doesn't mean operating losses. OLPC looks more and more like a melting iceberg, once capable of steering ships like Asus by its very existence, but now drifting into the lethal waters of competition.

For all their power, the other netbooks aren't radical at all (i have no comment on mac's AIR, its totally out of my range). For Xmas 2009, it looks like it's up to Pixel Qi (http://pixelqi.com/)!

Are you actually chattin about Mac air in your blog comment?

OLPC is not a commercial endeavour. G1G1 is charity. When people buy 20% less of Intel products in Q4 2008, that means people spend 80% less on charity.

Charity isn't ever on the top of the list of things to pay for for the normal capitalist. Charity is the last expense that you have, after you have bought all the stuff for yourself and that you are sure that you don't need anything more.

Adding stuff in laptops every 18 months is what makes the laptop industry rotten. Look at Intel and its crappy Classmate version 2. What a disgrace towards developing countries. Intel adds useless crappy features, increases power consumption and highers the cost with each generation that goes by.

If you want to consume things for yourself, you should have nothing to do with the OLPC project. OLPC is about making cheaper computers without profit for the poor children of the world as soon as possible.

Capitalism doesn't care about poor people. It never has. Didn't you hear Bill Gates shout out last year? He said it clearly, Capitalism doesn't work.

@Charbax:
"Capitalism doesn't care about poor people."

You confuse an efficient economic system with moral virtue. In history, the two did not go well together often.

OLPC is a charity, but must also do the obvious things do be efficient. I think the last G1G1 campaign illustrated why companies pay for a marketing and sales department.

The financial meltdown this summer was not caused by greed (Wall street has been run by greed from the beginning), but by failing oversight and policing.

Winter

Charbax wrote:

> Capitalism doesn't care about poor people. It never has. Didn't you hear Bill Gates shout out last year? He said it clearly, Capitalism doesn't work.

Neither does aerodynamics or plate tectonics. Capitalism is, however, the only means by which wealth is created inasmuch as it's a *voluntary* exchange of considerations of value. Both parties have to consent ergo both parties must feel that they're getting, at least, sufficient value to complete the exchange. You're certainly free to propose alternatives but history is pretty clear on the matter; the alternatives, uniformly, suck.

As for Bill Gates' views on capitalism, he shares the stage with a number of very wealthy individuals who've come by their wealth via capitalism and now, from the vantage point of sitting atop a billion-dollar pile of money, see it's faults. George Soros, wealthy due to capitalism, is similarly insightful. Maybe you believe a very rich hypocrite has some special credibility but I don't share your view.

Winter wrote:

> You confuse an efficient economic system with moral virtue. In history, the two did not go well together often.

Must be something about the time of year.

Look Winter, the efficiency of capitalism comes out fully only in the presence of a legal system which criminalizes violence and ensures the enforceability of agreements. Equality before the law and protection from violence seem like pretty serious commitments to moral virtue to me.

What Charbax wants is magnanimous authoritarianism, a generous monarchy which will seize the property of those Charbax disdains to succor those for whom Charbax feels sympathy. If you want to know what doesn't go well with moral virtue try a non-representative form of government be it communism, monarchy or theocracy.

To get back to the parent post, xian makes an important point in the lack of any follow-on to the XO-1.

A couple of years ago the XO was hot stuff but the technology's catching up and the form factor, now referred too as the "netbook", that the XO legitimized OLPC is now in the process of losing. The technology moves and fast so any organization that isn't ready with the next model before the new one starts coming off the assembly line won't be around for long and that looks to be the fate of the OLPC organization.

Where do I pick up my Cassandra medal?

allen wrote:
> history is pretty clear on the matter; the alternatives [to capitalism],
> uniformly, suck.

So the current system with millions of children dying of starvation and of easily curable and preventable illnesses, to you, that is a system that doesn't suck?

The alternatives to unregulated monopolistic Capitalism are very simple to define. It's not USSR communism I am talking about.

I am talking about Obama redefining the role of the state. Capitalists have got to be regulated, competition has got to be encouraged, real competition, not an Intel-monopoly on computer hardware and not a Microsoft-monopoly on software.

Capitalism regulating itself does not permit real competition. Cause the big capitalists become so big they own and they control everything. And don't say they are not, in every single product category, if you don't have a government that powers and encourages competition, you get big fat monopolies that will control the bulk of the market.

What happens when Intel and Microsoft control everything is that they control prices, they control the allowed reference designs in netbooks, Intel and Microsoft have complete dictatorial control on the netbook hardware and manufacturers which may use their Intel atom processor or their Microsoft Windows XP netbook edition OS.

Obama needs to encourage an ARM Cortex based alternative and Linux and open source. How to do that is simple, simply put it up for Universities to have the funds necessary to make a 100% perfect Linux OS run on as many alternative processor alternatives to the current monopolies. Simply put, Obama should invest a few billion in the MIT, accelerate the release of XO-2 on ARM Cortex on the architecture. Obama needs to regulate power consumption of laptops, obama needs to block the anti-trust kind of control that Intel and Microsoft has on the way manufacturers use their technologies. There are laws against price fixing, against anti-competitive behaviors. Obama simply needs to enforce them.


allen wrote:
> What Charbax wants is magnanimous authoritarianism,
> a generous monarchy which will seize the property of
> those Charbax disdains to succor those for whom
> Charbax feels sympathy.

Intel and Microsoft are the monarchy in place and are the sole authority on the current netbook market. You are the one supporting the current anti-competitive fachist system.

@allen:
"Look Winter, the efficiency of capitalism comes out fully only in the presence of a legal system which criminalizes violence and ensures the enforceability of agreements. Equality before the law and protection from violence seem like pretty serious commitments to moral virtue to me."

Nope. You didn't keep up with your economics history classes, i presume. Also your philosophy of morals and law seem to be rusty.

As a starter:
"Equality before the law and protection from violence seem like pretty serious commitments to moral virtue to me."

"All free men are equal to before law" has been the rule in quite some societies that had questionable morals to modern day society.

Just to mention the Roman empire. The laws about violence were pretty strict: You were only allowed to maim or murder direct dependents (slaves, children, personnel). Classical Athens had comparable laws.

On the other hand, all the early capitalists systems had legal slavery and offered limited protection to only a subset of society.

Contrary to the Free Market "religion" prevalent in the USA, capitalism is a just broad set of rules. This includes some regulated markets, some level of contract law and property protection. In addition some people should be allowed to trade, get rich, and own "Capital".

However, there is no reason why these privileges should be extended to all people and all goods.

Indeed, there are few (if any) societies were these privileges were owned by all for all goods and services.

Winter

Charbax wrote:

> I am talking about Obama redefining the role of the state.

Is there anything that man can't do? I'd ask what he's done but that would be a fairly short discussion.

> The alternatives to unregulated monopolistic Capitalism are very simple to define. It's not USSR communism I am talking about.

Actually, that's exactly what you're talking about there being no alternative, your reference to Obama's superhuman abilities notwithstanding.

Your knowledge of capitalism is a trifle on the thin side as well as can be shown by the examples you choose. Microsoft's advantage is clearly transitory and Intel's kept its market share only by staying ahead of a whole gang of aggressive competitors. In fact, it's those aggressive competitors that made the OLPC possible or did you think the technology sprang into existence at the demand of Nicholas Negroponte?

By the way, there have been heaps of monopolies and the only ones that lasted beyond a couple of years had access to the coercive power of government to maintain their dominance. Let's see. There's the British East India company, General Motors, Standard Oil, Bayer....oh, you didn't know they all benefited from the coercive power of government to exclude competition? Well, they did and it's where all monopolists end up when their legitimate advantage evaporates.

> Obama needs to...

No, he doesn't. He's already shown he's capable of quite obvious political expediency so he'll do whatever he feels works for him. You can proffer any advice you wish, just try to avoid the self-deception that you are in any position, moral, legal or intellectual, to dictate. It's good for your blood pressure.

> Intel and Microsoft are the monarchy in place and are the sole authority on the current netbook market. You are the one supporting the current anti-competitive fachist system.

Neither one's a monarchy and the evidence of their transitory grasp on dominance is all over the place. Microsoft's feeling the hot breath of Linux down its back and Intel's only dominant because they work very hard to maintain their dominance.

Winter wrote:

> Contrary to the Free Market "religion" prevalent in the USA, capitalism is a just broad set of rules.

No it's not but thanks for revealing your bigotry.

Your disdain for religion, and by extension people who adhere to religion, makes clear your belief that all men are not created equal and thus needn't be treated equally. But I already knew that since the core of socialism is the belief in the inequality of humankind - that some people are endowed by their superior intellect and moral superiority to rule the lesser forms of humanity.

By the way, capitalism, the free exchange of considerations of value, has been observed in a number of primate species besides Homo Sapien. It's not so much a "broad set of rules" as common sense and exists everywhere it isn't forcefully suppressed.

Didnt some chinese company come out with an ARM based netbook this fall that was 120$ and they claimed it would be 100$ soon?

I think there was even two different ones I saw on liliputing.com and saying to myself that the 100$ laptop was indeed possible.


As for OLPC, most people Ive talked to said the same thing: "Theyre still around and kicking?"
The continuous flip-flops, the defections of key technical staff, the XP saga (which is well detailled on some blogs with actual Redmond correspondence) and Nick's naivete on how big business is done and continuously moving the target has soured a lot of people (im not even talking about the free software activists who were among its first supporters who felt that they were hoodwinked).

They started teh netbook dance and we should be thankful but let it go,...

I was the one reporting on the Chinese made $100 ARM and MIPS latops at http://techvideoblog.com/category/laptops/

Those are for real, but they aren't good enough yet.

If Google doesn't produce $100 ARM laptop reference designs running Android really soon, then OLPC absolutely has to make that for XO-2 as soon as possible.

What you need to achieve with the $100 ARM laptop desin, is to have one that has a 100% smooth and instant web browsing experience, Basically you need Android and a full Chrome browser working on the ARM Cortex hardware. Once that is achieved, and that includes Flash and full AJAX support, once that is achieved, the floodgates will be oppened, hundreds of millions of $100 laptops can be distributed to the children of the world and the digital divide can be bridged. That is going to be the purpose of realizing the OLPC XO-2 reference design.

Android? Chrome?

Android is a heavyweight celphone OS. Chrome uses more resources and provides less flexibility than either Firefox or Opera (or Konqueror).

The only thing remotely related to XO-2 is that Android runs on ARM -- but so does each and every other embedded OS.

As I mentioned in the forum, ARM is a great choice if you don't need x86 compatibility, so if people are actually going to develop software for it, it will be fine with Linux. I am much more concerned about keyboard and more politics around the whole thing.

Well I bought a G1G1 this christmas, I just hope some kid gets the one I bought.
Nice little laptop, I wasn't expecting a high end netbook like some folks apparently did. I knew what I was getting. AND it works great.

G1G1 2008 was a failure because of all the competition from commercial netbook producers.

The problem is that the machines the various companies are making are still not what is needed for education in the developing world. In particular, they cost too much and use way too much power.

X0-1 is much closer, and with some luck XO-2 will finally get there. Maybe at some point in the future we will see commercial machines that do the job, and at that point olpc could get out of the hardware business and focus on the rest of the project.

This is what is most worrying, and likey about the Boston.com article:

<<
Analyst Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. of Wayland, questioned whether the foundation can weather the economic slump.

"They don't really have a business orientation. They have not from the start positioned themselves as a going concern."

As a result, Kay said, he doubts that Negroponte and other foundation managers will be able to guide the foundation through a severe recession. "I would be surprised if they actually survive this period," he said.
>>

I'm so disappointed to have missed the G1G1 opportunity. My mother told me about it (and then bought one) just before Christmas. I then caught the stomach flu and wasn't able to order it in time. I wanted to buy one for me and see if my niece-in-law liked it, and then I would have bought one for her.

Aside from my personal purchases, I had hoped to start a plan to develop a programming course based on this hardware at our college and work with our Education department to bring your product to neighboring elementary schools. As a women's college, we struggle with getting more women taking computer courses. Your product is comprehensive enough for me to use in an introduction to computer programming course AND is appealing (physically and philosophically) to our students. Your vision fits with our college's mission for global and local social justice.

Will there any way to get (and give) computers in the future? I would love to move forward with this if possible.

Yvonne, aside from the link that Mel mentioned below (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Change_the_World.) I'd also suggest taking a look at OLPC's contributor program details at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Contributors_program

For this year's G1G1 participants, I hope you find the hardware as wonderful as i do.

Unfortunately, don't expect much help from OLPC when you run into software difficulties. Nor should you expect an "instant on" machine, or one with a battery that lasts a long time (as was advertised).

Yes, I'm an open source enthusiast. I followed OLPC's weekly community mailing list updates for months leading up to 2007's G1G1. It's OLPC's organization, their opacity and general disregard for reality that bugs me.

And the "no double click" thing?! How pretentious!

If you feel adventurous, buy an 8gb flash card, stick it in, and install a real operating system on the green machine and make good use of great hardware!

Yvonne, you may want to look at http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Change_the_World.

Wow, a 93% decline in sales is a death knoll for a company. I have been in business for over 20 years and I cannot even imagine a 93% decrease in sales. Your expenses don't go down by that amount, let me assure you.

Wow. This thread far exceeds my expectations in civility and content.

"the presence of a legal system which criminalizes violence and ensures the enforceability of agreements. Equality before the law and protection from violence seem like pretty serious commitments to moral virtue to me."

Don't have many lawyer friends, do you? :)
I'll argue that laws form and enforce ethical systems, and are only losely related to morals. Ethics and laws are arbitrary constructs of the generating society. Lawyers, for example, are required to have professional ethics, whereas morals are an often costly luxury. Ideally, ethical and legal systems are internally consistent and not self-contradictory, but we all know that rarely happens in practice.

Personally, I find morals far more dangerous than ethics. A broken ethical system, e.g. the american tax code, is blindly damaging, whereas broken moral systems like the Spanish Inquisition, the French Revolution, and the 3rd Reich are actively destructive, and blind to their own destruction.

"George Sorros is a rich hypocrite"

I like that one! There's no denying that he's a smart rich hypocrite...

"Obama should give MIT billions..."

Hah!
There's no "One True Anything", be it a leader, a linux distribution, or anything else. The bad ones are easy to spot, but the good ones have to prove themselves.

Yes, government regulation has its place. Too much government regulation is also pretty ugly.

Inflexible idealism has a long and proven record of killing the most people in the least time with maximum amount of fear and loathing. At very least, intel/google/microsoft provide a lot of humans with not-too-terrible jobs... and who do you work for?

Even Matt Keller tells us the obvious:

"If you're a parent [in the U.S.] and you're looking to buy a first-time laptop for one of your kids, you're probably going to go with something you're familiar with, not something that is designed for children who live in exotic places"

> Don't have many lawyer friends, do you? :)

Two actually, both observant and committed Catholics and both far to the left politically of my location on the spectrum. Go figure.

> I'll argue that laws form and enforce ethical systems, and are only losely related to morals.

For the purposes of argument and appropriating Winter's somewhat sloppy choice of words, I used the words interchangeably. I'd offer though that in the case of societies based on monotheism there's an egalitarian bias in which moral and ethical behavior are aligned if not without, as you say, internal inconsistencies and self-contradictions. But hey, you do what you can with the rather poor material - that's us human beings - that's available for getting the work of making a society work, done.

> Personally, I find morals far more dangerous than ethics.

Agreed but the danger of morals is also their attraction. Morals can be so wonderfully flexible that they provide an authoritative rationale for all sorts of nasty outcomes. Ethics, by contrast, require all that boring introspection, bothersome self-discipline and annoying objectivity.

To get back to the XO and the apparent, possible, unwinding of the organization, where, if anywhere, does the use of computers in education go from here? Is it too early to do a post mortem?

The corpse seems to have a few twitches of life left in it but is there any reasonable likelihood it'll arise, Phoenix-like, from the ashes?

I think winter raises some good points, and there's a lot of room for semantic argument there - a case of similar ideas approached from different directions? Nothing to fight over, i say. Charbax, on the other hand, is clearly delusional (sorry buddy :} ).

One final relevant point that i believe is worthy of consideration for future Casandra award:
the emerging monopolies of capital economies of scale.

My examples here are google, ibm, and intel. All have invested mind-boggling amounts of money in R&D and in "capital improvements". They, more or less, go to great lengths to obtain and retain human talent.

Case 1: intel vs. amd - Each new fab costs billions. Intel has money to build good fabs fast, so they make good chips fast, so they have money to make more fabs. In consumer electronics, AMD got clobbered by a combination of under-spending and under-earning.

Case 2: google vs. everyone else. Google works well, so it has lots of users.
This gives it lots of data to play with, and breathing room for its infamous "20% playtime" for employees to develop tools like gmail. Gmail works well, it gets users, which gives more data and pays for more developers, etc.
Now that google "owns all our data", they're much better than any competitor at sorting it.

Case 3: Microsoft. Once renowned for hiring all the best talent, they lost their edge. I posit that they over-invested in marketing and legal departments, and in middle management. They should have funded linux from early on, along with developer tools like csv/svn, instead of clobbering everyone. After years of "capital depreciation" without appropriate re-investment, they're left with the dubious heap of code known as "vista".

To summarize, OLPC needs a well-capitalized non-non-profit partner to weather this storm. The upswing of such an arrangement is that it would force scrutiny and accountability (aka reality) upon OLPC.

@allen

I will reply here, but this also handles your other comments.

@allen:
"For the purposes of argument and appropriating Winter's somewhat sloppy choice of words, I used the words [ethical and morals] interchangeably. "

Morals are personal, ethics is a philosophical system, and the law is "universal". Basing the laws of the land on the morals of an individual is called "tyranny".

Morals are always inconsistent as they are based on the personal choices in specific situations. Ethics is based on a philosophical system of values. They are always impractical, and compromises are required to make them fit reality.

Laws are made to allow people to express their morals in life, and to regulate their relations. The latter function has little to do with morals. Say, we do not drive on the right side of the road out of ethical considerations.

@allen
"I'd offer though that in the case of societies based on monotheism there's an egalitarian bias in which moral and ethical behavior are aligned if not without, as you say, internal inconsistencies and self-contradictions."

Egalitarianism came about by the enlightenment revolution in the 18th century, eg, in the French ad American revolutions. The protestant reformation in the 16th century was already going that way.

But before that, there were essentially no egalitarian societies.

And to claim that Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians believed in an egalitarian society in the one and a half millennium since the fifth century shows you have some reading to do.

If anything, it is atheists, eg, the Buddhists, that are biased to egalitarianism.

@allen:
"Your disdain for religion, and by extension people who adhere to religion, makes clear your belief that all men are not created equal and thus needn't be treated equally."

So you adhere to the religion of capitalism? Or what do you mean? And to claim that non-religious people are immoral and believe people are created unequal is projecting and bigotry.

Your mixing of Capitalism (money) and religion is quite disconcerting.

@allen:
"But I already knew that since the core of socialism is the belief in the inequality of humankind - that some people are endowed by their superior intellect and moral superiority to rule the lesser forms of humanity."

That is fascism. But you seem to fall to the delusion that fascists and socialists (actually communists) are the same breed, as all evil comes from the left.

For your information, neither fascists, nor socialists, nor their victims agree with this purely North-American delusion.

Fascists are at the political Right, and are generally also racists. Communists are at the political Left, and proclaim the equality of men. Most fascists hate democracy and freedom for all. Too many communists and some socialists do too. But that is about the only thing they have in common.

@allen:
"By the way, capitalism, the free exchange of considerations of value, has been observed in a number of primate species besides Homo Sapien. It's not so much a "broad set of rules" as common sense and exists everywhere it isn't forcefully suppressed."

No, Capitalism is the private possession of Capital, ie, the goods needed for production. It generally comes with partial freedom of trade and the legal right to become rich.

All human societies and some primates trade goods and services (eg, the oldest profession is indeed found in some apes). That is because trade tends to be the most profitable of all enterprises.

But one trait all humans and primates share is envy. And the one thing that all Capitalist societies share is that they suppress the envy of the rich.

@allen:
"By the way, there have been heaps of monopolies and the only ones that lasted beyond a couple of years had access to the coercive power of government to maintain their dominance. Let's see."

Monopolies are extremely bad for society. They uniformly depress the economy. They are always part of the power structure and serve to enrich the powerful. They NEVER go away on their own. They have to be broken up or otherwise destroyed by the powers of the state.

We saw this in the MS anti-trust case in the USA. MS hadn't paid their dues in Washington DC, so they were hauled in court. After they "befriended" again with Congress, the penalty was gone. As MS has no such representation in the EU, they could not sway the EU commission and were punished.

All in all
"Capitalism is, however, the only means by which wealth is created inasmuch as it's a *voluntary* exchange of considerations of value."

Actually, I have the distinct feeling you still have a lot of reading to do in history, philosophy, political science, and the history of economy. But I wrote that before and you obviously did not listen. See our almost identical discussion from December 2007.

http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/nigeria/bbc_visit_olpc_nigeria_school.html

And I still would love to discuss primate behavior with you. There have been such intriguing developments in the field.

Winter

A nice summary of morals and ethics.

"Monopolies are extremely bad for society. They uniformly depress the economy. They are always part of the power structure and serve to enrich the powerful. They NEVER go away on their own."

Hmmm. Never say never :)

Two comments r.e. technology and monopolies:

1. Lowering barriers of entry

I think technology can and does play a huge part in doing "end runs" around monopolies, making them obsolete. The music industry, for example, has a history of monopolistic abuse. Controlling information, however, is much more difficult than controlling the means of production. I hope that few americans would argue that Ms. Spears, et al. are the "means of production". The contemporary music industry became gate-keepers of content, using advertising to create a "whole package" that was remarkably lucrative.

Garage band, etc., lowered the barrier of entry for musicians, while broadband provided the means of distribution.

Unlawful duplication has caused great monetary loss in the music industry, but i would argue that they were profoundly inefficient to start with, and that unlawful duplication simply stole their leverage. I'll argue that there's more more and better music now.

DeBeers vs. synthetic diamonds is another interesting, though still nascent, example.

I tend to see linux as a rather successful, if still nascent, end-run around MS.

2.
Physical constraints

Technology has allowed the means of production (and consumption) to outstrip available resources. Cod fisheries run out of cod, oil fields run out of oil. Technology has greatly increased the pace of physical resource harvesting, a short-term bounty with long-term prognoses for scarcity.

Monopolies and cartels that depend upon resource extraction are doomed of their own accord. This doesn't have a long historic precedent, mostly 20th century, but is becoming increasingly important.

What constitutes an economy, and what constitutes bad? It's an interesting question...

Xian,

"Hmmm. Never say never :)"

I can only agree with your post. The caveat being that some political monopolies, like the various East and West Indian companies, went on for centuries as part of colonial empires.

To bring it back to the OLPC. The target populations of the OLPC are all in decidedly inefficient economies who score badly on the free trade/open society scales. Most of them are simply poor and powerless. Nothing but charity and political force will bring education to these children.

However, the XOs have to be produced in the developed world. And the industry there is hobbled by a twin monopoly: MS and Intel. Both have materially interfered with the attempts of the OLPC. We will never know how things would have been without these monopolies.

However, the OLPC's success in opening up the market for netbooks shows just how bad the twin monopoly is for the global ICT market in particular and the economy in general. Especially MS have been very active in preventing netbooks from appearing as these cheap computers do not integrate in their 80% margin goals on software.

Even now, MS are hobbling the development of netbooks with artificial license restrictions.

Netbooks, slow thanks to Microsoft
http://hackaday.com/2008/12/20/netbooks-slow-thanks-to-microsoft/

Microsoft hobbles XP mini-notes with 1GB RAM limit
http://apcmag.com/microsoft_hobbles_xp_mininotes_with_1gb_ram_limit.htm

And we know that MS is paying journalists and bloggers to make sure the correct message is comming out:

Journalists shouldn't write ad copy
http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/index.php/id;41947704

Microsoft Unleashes Proxies at Journalists to Defend Vulnerable Vista
http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/05/waggener-edstrom-muscles-journos/

News Warping and Microsoft
http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/03/microsoft-shapes-coverage/

MS anti-OSDL PR, 2000: "O'Gara said she was going to call them, so it looks better coming from her"
http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic.php?story=20070417181027290

Winter

> Egalitarianism came about by the enlightenment revolution in the 18th century, eg, in the French ad American revolutions. The protestant reformation in the 16th century was already going that way.

Well, other then Greece and Rome, your examples of democracies. Of course they weren't monotheistic but then I never claimed that monotheism was a necessary precursor to democracy, just that it biases thought in that direction, that it makes the social soil more fertile for the seed of democracy.

> If anything, it is atheists, eg, the Buddhists, that are biased to egalitarianism.

You're free to offer examples of the democracies based on Buddhist, or atheistic, egalitarianism.

> So you adhere to the religion of capitalism? Or what do you mean?

Capitalism isn't a religion. It's the formal expression of innate behaviors that've been observed in a number of species of primate including Home Sapien, as I wrote and you ignored.

> And to claim that non-religious people are immoral and believe people are created unequal is projecting and bigotry.

I laid out the case that monotheism is inherently egalitarian putting, as it does, all humankind on an equal footing before the single deity. That's an idea that erosive of authoritarianism as can be seen in the Protestant Reformation and the heaps of reformations that didn't get anywhere near as much publicity that preceded the Protestant Reformation.

By the way, it was capitalism, in the form of privately-owned printing presses that fueled the spread of the Protestant Reformation and the avidity with which its most enduring legacy, the Bible, was snapped up supports the idea of the inherently egalitarian nature of monotheism.

Nowhere in my view of religion is there the contention that non-religious people are immoral.

> Communists are at the political Left, and proclaim the equality of men.

Oh, they *proclaim* the equality of men. Well, I'm sure that citizens of the very few remaining communist nations, that proclaim the equality of men, will be glad to hear of it, provided the news makes it past the government censor and they're lucky enough to afford a luxury like a radio.

> No, Capitalism is the private possession of Capital, ie, the goods needed for production.

Save your fresh-from-Das-Kapital assertions for someone who hasn't read the rantings of that mid-eighteenth century fraud. Marx has as much to tell us about economics as Freud does about human behavior and Kellogg about human nutrition.

Capitalism is the voluntary exchange of considerations of value and it's observationally demonstrable in both lab - http://tinyurl.com/au5hq - and wild - http://tinyurl.com/2o2lzx- settings in non-human primates and observable anywhere and any time people's come together.

> But one trait all humans and primates share is envy. And the one thing that all Capitalist societies share is that they suppress the envy of the rich.

Whereas socialist societies what? celebrate envy of the rich?

> They (monopolies) have to be broken up or otherwise destroyed by the powers of the state.

To be replaced with....wait for it...government-based monopolies! And aren't they just the sort of thoughtful innovators and responsive suppliers of services that anyone could hope for? No.

> We saw this in the MS anti-trust case in the USA. MS hadn't paid their dues in Washington DC, so they were hauled in court.

Oooh! Hauled into court. I understand Bill Gates still has nightmares about...what was the outcome of the Microsoft anti-trust trial? You'll have to refresh my memory since about all I remember is some very sincere expressions of contrition and not much else.

Microsoft, interestingly enough, turns out to be an excellent example of the story-arc associated with monopolies.

M$ success lies as much in good luck as in good technology and good business decisions but once in possession of an advantage they successful rode that advantage to a segment-dominating position.

And when they used that domination to expand to other areas? They fell flat on their face.

Oh, M$ is an important player in some segments like server operating systems, database management software and a couple of others but outside of the desktop they're just another player with nothing like the dominance they enjoy on the desktop and no realistic hope of recreating that dominance in those areas.

That frustrating inability to dominate other areas of technology precedes the anti-trust suit by a pretty comfortable margin so Microsoft didn't give up trying to unseat Adobe's dominance of font technology because of government action, they're at it yet. They just weren't good enough to manage it. There are a number of other areas in which M$'s push resulted in either humiliating failure or just failure, cell phones and set top boxes come to mind, but the point's made; monopolies rarely manage success outside their original area of dominance.

> Actually, I have the distinct feeling you still have a lot of reading to do in history, philosophy, political science, and the history of economy. But I wrote that before and you obviously did not listen. See our almost identical discussion from December 2007.

That's because I'm still unimpressed by conceits and you're still unimpressed by facts.

> And I still would love to discuss primate behavior with you. There have been such intriguing developments in the field.

Indeed. That's where I draw many of my conclusions about myself and my fellow hairless primates.

On any given day Jane Goodall generates more in the way of worthwhile data about human beings, via the study of chimpanzees, then Marx and Freud did together and in total. And, I think I just insulted Jane Goodall by the comparison.

By the way, I think your reading list could be improved as well.

I'd suggest Julian Simon if for no other reason then the novelty of a college-level economics text book that's fun to read - The Ultimate Resource, Second Edition. Hernando de Soto is also a worthwhile read - The Mystery of Capital being particularly worth reading due to the subject - although de Soto's nowhere near the writer Simon was.

xian, you're mixing apples and oranges.

The collapse of cod stocks is an example of the tragedy of the commons in which the smart play, and human nature, strongly rewards grabbing as much as possible as quickly as possible without regard to the future. When there's a commons that's both the right thing to do and the thing we're wired to do.

Resource depletion is a chimera, a bogeyman.

Resource depletion concerns have their roots in the writings of Dr. Thomas Malthus who noticed that population grew exponentially and resources linearly. He came to the conclusion that resource depletion was inevitable since the population "line" had to, inevitably, cross the resource "line" resulting in a constraint on supply.

Dr. Malthus made his observations about the growth of the English population and the growth of the English food supply in the early 1800's. When it was clear some decades later that human ingenuity was easily up to the task of accelerating resource production sufficiently to exceed population growth, Dr. Malthus modified his original assumptions.

There's been nothing since to reinforce Malthus' original ideas save the desire of one strain of humanity to impose their will on the balance of humanity. Malthusianism provides a pretext for the enlightened to guide, generally forcibly, the unenlightened.

To get back to the OLPC and the use of computers in education generally, is it too soon to open a discussion on what the low-hanging fruit are in the garden of computer-based education? What's the most worthwhile, that is, the use that's most likely to result in worthwhile outcomes of whatever kind, to which computers can be put in education?

I've got two candidates:

1) textbook substitutes. Just dump textbooks into computers with the minimum in the way of accommodation for the change necessary to get the textbook into a suitable format for use in a computer. Colloquially, this is known as dump-ware.

The big advantage is in costs of printing and distribution. They both, largely, disappear. By utilizing dump-ware costs of production go away as well. There is also an open textbook movement producing textbooks of wildly varying quality that might be a source of material as well as textbooks whose copyright has fallen into the public domain.

2) testing. One of the great failures of education is in the failure to produce measurement instruments, tests, that are sufficiently cheap and responsive to be used to gauge learning of individual students. Typically testing has been more institutionally-oriented in that the concern was to determine whether the student measured up to the requirements of passage to the next stage of education not whether the student was learning to their potential or whether the instruction they were receiving was optimal.

I am at a loss about what you want to prove to us. Capitalism is good and Socialism is bad, obviously. But you are defining away these terms to include everything you like into Capitalism (including your favorite monotheistic religions, it seems) and everything you loath into Socialism (including fascism, atheism, and polytheism).

@allen:
"Capitalism is the voluntary exchange of considerations of value and it's observationally demonstrable in both lab - http://tinyurl.com/au5hq - and wild - http://tinyurl.com/2o2lzx- settings in non-human primates and observable anywhere and any time people's come together."

That is the textbook definition of trade. And some form of it can be found in almost every human society known, including communist ones. And in other non-human primates.

Your definition of Capitalism does not quite square with that of the rest of humanity:
"an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market"
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/capitalism

"economic system, dominant in the Western world since the breakup of feudalism, in which most of the means of production are privately owned and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets."
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/93927/capitalism

"An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market. "
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/capitalism

"Economic system based (to a varying degree) on private ownership of the factors of production (capital, land, and labor) employed in generation of profits. It is the oldest and most common of all economic systems and, in general, is synonymous with free market system."
http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/capitalism.html

Note how all these definitions are centered around the ownership of Capital. Which, incidentally, also gave the name of the system.

And you seem to equate egalitarian societies with democracy. Democracies of some form (mostly limited to "free" men) have been found in many polytheistic societies, eg, classical Athens, several early Germanic and Nordic tribes (eg, Friesian tribes, Vikings). I wouldn't know about democracies in Buddhist societies.

Btw, really egalitarian human societies are rare. Even strong democracies have a hierarchy.

So if you define Capitalism as "trading" and egalitarian as "democracy" what are we talking about? What is it you want to prove? You just defined away the distinctions between societies and historical periods.

@allen:
"Whereas socialist societies what? celebrate envy of the rich?"

Yes. If anything, in communist societies jealousy of those who are richer is cultivated. In almost all societies in history, wealth comes from power and not vice versa. Strong jealous envy is one reason you need power to obtain and preserve wealth. This was and is true in communist societies.

Btw, to simplify understanding. In the world outside of the USA, USA 'Liberals' and 'Socialists' are called 'Socialists' and 'Communists', respectively. USA 'libertarians' would be some kind of 'Anarchistic Liberals' everywhere else.

@allen:
Regarding the DoJ action against MS.

The DoJ ensured a guilty conviction against MS after which MS started to "support" politicians and Gates announced to step back and Ballmer took over. After that, the punishment was removed.

Winter

> I am at a loss about what you want to prove to us. Capitalism is good and Socialism is bad, obviously. But you are defining away these terms to include everything you like into Capitalism (including your favorite monotheistic religions, it seems) and everything you loath into Socialism (including fascism, atheism, and polytheism).

No, I'm defining the terms in ways which seem rather more worthwhile to me then the definitions which I learned. Those definitions were based on ideas which are either proven wrong, like Malthusianism, or aren't particularly useful like the Marxist definition of capital. So I went looking for definitions that seemed more worthwhile and this is what I came up with.

I don't claim the connection between monotheism is strong nor inevitable. Far from it. What I am saying is that monotheism creates a bias in favor of democracy by virtue of, inherently, putting all humanity on an equal footing in comparison to the deity.

Can the inherent egalitarianism of monotheism be subverted? Of course. The hierarchical nature of the Catholic church is pretty obvious proof of that but what of it? The strain of the contradiction of a church based on the inequality of men claiming a theology that was based on the inherent *equality* of men found it's final victory in the Protestant Reformation. Not that the contradiction wasn't noted before; there were quite a number of similarly-based rebellions against church authority that failed.

> Your definition of Capitalism does not quite square with that of the rest of humanity:

Sure it does, the excessively complex definitions you quote notwithstanding.

However you try to tart it up capitalism is just another name for free trade which, as you point out, is not limited to democracies or even human beings.

The efficiency by which free trade can work it's wealth-generating magic works much better in a democracy then in any flavor of authoritarian government since the vital component of free trade are encumbered. Participants to an exchange may be unequal in that one, say the local commissar or duke, might have the option of using violence to coerce the exchange. In a democracy the use of violence to coerce an exchange results in jail time.

> Yes. If anything, in communist societies jealousy of those who are richer is cultivated.

Probably necessary given the inevitable economic collapse that follows the victory of communism. Someone has to be stuck with the blame for the economy going in the toilet with the rise of an authoritarian regime and blaming the rich has the added benefit of utilizing greed. Say, I think it's great the way communism, and by extension socialism, encourage the basest of base human emotions in the service of those in power.

> Btw, to simplify understanding. In the world outside of the USA, USA 'Liberals' and 'Socialists' are called 'Socialists' and 'Communists', respectively. USA 'libertarians' would be some kind of 'Anarchistic Liberals' everywhere else.

I hope this isn't your idea of the use of computers in education because it certainly doesn't require an XO.

Oh yeah, you also don't have a clue but that's understandable.

> The DoJ ensured a guilty conviction against MS after which MS started to "support" politicians and Gates announced to step back and Ballmer took over. After that, the punishment was removed.

David Boies was the lead for the Department of Justice. In case that name doesn't mean anything to you he was assistant to the lead defense attorney in IBM's anti-trust trial as well. He, more then most, would have known that MS could keep the case in the courts until even the people who originally thought it was a wonderful idea were sick of it.

By the way, patents, copyrights and trademarks are legal monopolies. If monopolies are as terrible as you think maybe they shouldn't be protected under law and the intellectual property patents, copyrights and trademarks protect should be returned to public domain.

@allen:
"No, I'm defining the terms in ways which seem rather more worthwhile to me then the definitions which I learned."

Which is another way of telling us you do not care whether we actually understand what you want to say. It is also a fundamental property of propaganda to redefine the meaning of words (read "1984").

@allen:
"Sure it does, the excessively complex definitions you quote notwithstanding."

If I have to choose between the definition in Webster, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, or the one made up by allen, I simply ignore allen's.

But just for a better understanding, why do you hate to include the word "Capital" in your definition of "Capitalism"?

@allen:
"However you try to tart it up capitalism is just another name for free trade which, as you point out, is not limited to democracies or even human beings."

So if Capitalism is just Free Trade, why not call it Free-Trade instead of Capitalism? Your use of the word Capitalism will give everyone the idea that you are talking about "Capital" whereas you are only talking about trade.

And I insist that pretty much all human societies had some form of trade. Some even had free-er markets than the USA has now. So you simply cannot set "Trade" against other systems because they ALL use it.

@allen:
"I hope this isn't your idea of the use of computers in education because it certainly doesn't require an XO."

I have absolutely no idea what you want to say with this sentence. I simply stated the fact that your use of the word "Socialist" is USA specific. In all other countries, the corresponding word would be "Communist".

@allen:
"David Boies was the lead for the Department of Justice."

Indeed, but MS was simply found guilty on all accounts. They LOST. The only thing remaining was sentencing. Sentencing was crippled by the intentionally ineffective requests of the DoJ. And these decisions were POLITICAL.

Boies is the attorney of the PLAINTIFF (ie, SCO), not the defense. in SCO vs IBM.

@allen:
"By the way, patents, copyrights and trademarks are legal monopolies. If monopolies are as terrible as you think maybe they shouldn't be protected under law and the intellectual property patents, copyrights and trademarks protect should be returned to public domain."

These legal monopolies are installed because of the existence of positive externalities in the intellectual domain lead to market failures. "IP" laws try to correct this market failure.

However, there have been studies showing that in practice, these legal monopolies are too expensive and harm the economy more than they benefit it. The political backing of the use of IP laws for protectionism and market manipulations does not help.

Winter

> Which is another way of telling us you do not care whether we actually understand what you want to say. It is also a fundamental property of propaganda to redefine the meaning of words (read "1984").

The explanation's there but if you're unwilling or incapable of engaging it you do have the option of dismissing it as propaganda. Oh, and words are redefined all the time for non-propagandistic purposes. The word "atom" comes from the Greek word which meant "indivisible". You figure we should keep that definition because changing it would be "propagandistic"?

> If I have to choose between the definition in Webster, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, or the one made up by allen, I simply ignore allen's.

Typed, I'm sure, with nose elevated firmly above the horizon.

> But just for a better understanding, why do you hate to include the word "Capital" in your definition of "Capitalism"?

Because it illuminates nothing.

In fact, if anything the term obfuscates the relationship between ruler and ruled. The term artifically divides the economic realm from other areas in which individual liberties may come into conflict with the preferences of the political rulers of society. A term which serves political ends, to the exclusion of accuracy, would properly be defined as propagandistic. Clear?

> So if Capitalism is just Free Trade, why not call it Free-Trade instead of Capitalism?

The confusion isn't mine. Lay that at the feet of the great and powerful Marx who, having created a specious distinction - what exactly does free trade absent the private ownership of the means of production look like? - bears the responsibility for the confusion. Marx and all his disciples can't seem to find much to distinguish the two, except when the pretense of insightfulness is advantageous, so why should I?

> And I insist that pretty much all human societies had some form of trade.

You insist? I'm the one who introduced evidence of the voluntary exchange of considerations of value in non-human primates.

Yeah, trade's built into us. That being the case it's to our *long*term* advantage to make sure that trade is voluntary, since recourse to coercion suppresses trade, and that agreements voluntarily entered into are enforceable, since recourse to prevarication suppresses trade. In the short term it's much more advantageous for those with the means and inclination to do so to either use coercion or to lie.

> I have absolutely no idea what you want to say with this sentence. I simply stated the fact that your use of the word "Socialist" is USA specific. In all other countries, the corresponding word would be "Communist".

You were being pedantic and withoug an XO in sight. Would your simplistic views on American partisanship have been more efficiently taught using an XO? I think, probably not.

> Indeed, but MS was simply found guilty on all accounts. They LOST. The only thing remaining was sentencing. Sentencing was crippled by the intentionally ineffective requests of the DoJ. And these decisions were POLITICAL.

Gotcha. So Microsoft lost but they didn't lose anything. And that had what effect on Microsoft's fearsome monopoly?

> These legal monopolies are installed because of the existence of positive externalities in the intellectual domain lead to market failures. "IP" laws try to correct this market failure.

A simpler, and more honest, way of putting that is that people, in general, won't work for nothing. If the way to reliably encourage the development of intellectual property is to confer a monopoly then there's a good monopoly since the intellectual property wouldn't exist absent the possibility of personal gain which the monopoly enables.

> However, there have been studies showing that in practice, these legal monopolies are too expensive and harm the economy more than they benefit it.

I'm sure there have been. Did these studies indicate a means by which exceptional individuals may be rewarded for producing works which enrich society absent such legal monopolies?

> The political backing of the use of IP laws for protectionism and market manipulations does not help.

Oh my! You mean monopolists use the power of government for their own ends? Umm, that's exactly what I wrote earlier in this thread.

The difference between Walt Disny and John D. Rockefeller being that Disney got his monopoly to encourage him to create further works and John D. Rockefeller got his monopoly via his business and technical acumen. Rockefeller, in the end, sought to make use of government power to fend off his competitors when his competitors learned the techniques Rockefeller pioneered and used them against him.

@allen:
"A simpler, and more honest, way of putting that is that people, in general, won't work for nothing. If the way to reliably encourage the development of intellectual property is to confer a monopoly then there's a good monopoly since the intellectual property wouldn't exist absent the possibility of personal gain which the monopoly enables."

This and the rest of your comments on "IP" give me the impression you did not think things through. Nor do you seem to understand what is meant by:

"the existence of positive externalities in the intellectual domain lead to market failures."

Which, in other words, is exactly what you label a more honest way of saying it. I am afraid you are lacking even basic understanding of economic theory and terminology. Which is completely fine with me, I am not an economist myself.

But it would help if you read some basic economic textbooks before you advice the OLPC and the developing world in general how they should drastically reconfigure their economies.

And that would also result in you being able to formulate your ideas in ways that other people actually understand. Instead of randomly redefining basic economic terminology to suit your taste and insulting others that they stick to the dictionary meanings.

Winter

@allen:
"> If I have to choose between the definition in Webster, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, or the one made up by allen, I simply ignore allen's.

Typed, I'm sure, with nose elevated firmly above the horizon."

It seems you are not someone to value education.

What use is it to discuss economic policy with someone who refuses to communicate using words with generally accepted meanings.

Whether or not you like my political views (or those of Marx), by refusing to use at least dictionary meanings of words you kill of any exchange of ideas.

There are words that express your political views in every dictionary. By using them, you make yourself understood. By randomly using personal definitions for commonly used words understood by everyone you actually cut yourself off of the world.

Winter

Oh Winter, there was never really much chance of an exchange of ideas.

Your political ideas are an expression of the sentiment that all men are not create equal with you, and those who share the sentiment, as the intellectual and moral exemplars of mankind and thus, mankind's rightful leaders. That's the attraction of the authoritarianism that lies at the heart of Marxism and why you're incapable of entertaining the idea of any diminishment of government authority and are quite comfortable with any extension of government authority.

The OLPC project is as attractive to you as it is precisely because of the "casting pearls before the swine" aspect of the project.

The intellectually superior have determined that the little, green computer is the route to educational salvation and the lesser forms may queue up to pay proper obeisance. Questions may or may not be entertained if they are deemed appropriate and criticism will, quite naturally, be disregarded as inherently unworthy of attention or response.

By the way Winter, I predicted the project would be a failure and that's the way it's turning out. I'd rather be right then look for someone to blame when I'm wrong.

@allen:
"Your political ideas are an expression of the sentiment that all men are not create equal with you, and those who share the sentiment, as the intellectual and moral exemplars of mankind and thus, mankind's rightful leaders."

Of all the things that you wrote, this is the one that baffles me most.

I can not remember nor imagine where I could have ever written anything on OLPCnews (nor anywhere else) that would give you this impression (and I have written quite a lot on OLPCnews). Please point out where you found this so I can add a note.

But I am not here to write about myself nor about USA political smoke and mirrors, so that part of the discussion is closed as far as I am concerned.

@allen:
"I predicted the project would be a failure and that's the way it's turning out. "

This is about the OLPC, so I will answer.

Failure was always possible. What we have seen is brilliant engineering and many passionate people who try to help those in need of an education. What we also saw was a distribution and marketing model that tried to reach for the stars and (most likely) failed.

But did the OLPC change the world? Yes, they really did.

When I see the writings of the likes of Bryan Berry (Nepal), Sameer Verma (India), David Leeming et al. (Papua), and Yama Ploskonka (Bolivia) I score that as a success of the OLPC (intended or not).

After the OLPC, thinking about education for the poor has really changed from "give them our school system" to "give them the tools to educate".

And that is even discounting the fact that the OLPC single-handedly created a completely new computer market.

Winter

> I can not remember nor imagine where I could have ever written anything on OLPCnews (nor anywhere else) that would give you this impression (and I have written quite a lot on OLPCnews). Please point out where you found this so I can add a note.

It's inherent in the unquestioned, and unquestionable, assumption of the necessity of public education for one. There've have been more then a few other instances but what's the point in going to the work of detailing them? Introspections not the sort of virtue commonly practiced by people who reflexively reject the notion that they're not introspective.

> Failure was always possible. What we have seen is brilliant engineering and many passionate people who try to help those in need of an education. What we also saw was a distribution and marketing model that tried to reach for the stars and (most likely) failed.

Failure was always inevitable.

While there was some damned good engineering in the project there were some questionable decisions but the engineering of the project was never the focus of my criticism. The focus of my criticism was reserved for management and policy decisions which didn't qualify as questionable, they were disastrous and no amount of brilliant engineering was going to paper over those decisions.

> But did the OLPC change the world? Yes, they really did.

Please. At best the OLPC project established the cheap computer as a viable market segment and created a new form-factor that's coming to be referred too as a "netbook". With the dropping price of technology I believe the netbook was an inevitability but OLPC established the form-factor with a bang. Worthwhile? Yes. World-changing? No.

> After the OLPC, thinking about education for the poor has really changed from "give them our school system" to "give them the tools to educate".

As I've already written, and you've blandly dismissed, the education system for the poor is an education system the poor are creating for themselves all presumptions of Nicholas Negroponte and OLPC partisans aside - http://www.ncl.ac.uk/egwest/tooley.html

@allen:
"It's inherent in the unquestioned, and unquestionable, assumption of the necessity of public education for one. "

I understand you want to convince the world of the virtues of private teaching and the evils of public education. But you have chosen both the wrong venue and the wrong words for that.

I for one come from a society where public education beats private teaching hands down. And I do know a few other countries where this holds too.

And in most places I know, people are fighting for better PUBLIC education. I know very FEW places where people have embraced private teaching as the best solution for their children.

And I do whish all (poor) people who want to create a better (private) educational system for themselves all the luck in the world. I am afraid they will need it.

Winter

The choice to make the keyboard fit only the hands of a child by itself doomed this project -- which is frustrating, because I would love to have seen it succeed.

A child lives in a culture that includes adults, and children seek to imitate adults. To create a tool that could never become a business computer in the developing world because of the physical barrier of the keyboard is blindness, and perhaps arrogance.

If I could have used this computer, I would be using it in meetings to take notes. I expected to use one for me and one for my daughter.

Instead, she can't use it (the Mac makes more sense, and we can't figure out sugar), and I can't help, because I'll never master it.

Great tools are always used in unexpected ways -- if this could have been an accounting computer at a fish exchange on a dock somewhere miles from electricity, you would be witnessing a revolution.

This could have been great, and world changing, and so it is a rather bitter disappointment.

m

A lot of small laptops have small keyboards, even if they are intended for adults. Some adults can get used to them anyway... I guess you're not in that group. Still, point taken, why don't they offer a larger model? Maybe multiple models cause an economy-of-scale problem?

I am more concerned about this idea of a user interface, Sugar, that is targeted *only* at children and not adults. Your point applies at least as well to Sugar as to the keyboard, I think.

Totally impressed by the conversations. XO for some reason has attracted some very intelligent (if occasionally biased) interlocution. Good minds wandering all over the map to discuss the various aspects of XO philosophy and motives for dissemination, spilling over into a wide range of philosophical topics. Love it. Better than usually seen.

I know I'm late to the discussion party, but my two cents:

shifting the marketing arm for G1G1 2008 to Amazon contributed to the disaster. As a Canadian purchaser of 2 XO (and theoretically 2 donated, although I'm not so sure based on the earlier discussions in this thread), I was effectively "shut out" of the purchasing opportunity in 2008 until very late in the year, when XO magnanimously allowed us to purchase via Amazon.uk at more than double the price I paid the previous year! I did purchase 1 in 2008 out of dedication to the ideal of the project, but I was extremely unhappy with the change in the purchase process. The only excuse I received when I complained to XO was that "they had problems meeting the demand in 2007". Fair enough, but why use an online source that shuts out international buyers, and force them to use a MUCH more expensive route? I fully agree with the earlier statements discussing that even if the XO didn't show evolutionary change for 2008, it should have shown a price reduction due to economy of scale and downward pressure from the rest of the computer market; instead, my "price" to G1G1 doubled! Based on this business model, it seems obvious why the NGO is floundering.

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