Classmate PC Order Declines Is Not Victory for OLPC


According to Digitimes's sources orders for Classmate PCs are being canceled or suspended due to the economic crisis:

Governments and OEM partners in many emerging markets have canceled orders for Intel-promoted Classmate PCs, or have asked to suspend shipments, according to Taiwan-based component makers.

However, Quanta Computer and Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS), makers of the Classmate PC, are not expected to see much impact because order volumes and gross margins are relatively small, the sources pointed out.

But before One Laptop Per Child supports start to cheer, realize that this drop is sales is not a reason to rejoice. The main three reasons behind slow Classmate PC sales are the same ones that will and are impacting XO laptop sales too.

  1. Low Profit Margins
    First, note that Quanta Computer, the exclusive producer of XO laptops, also makes Classmate PC's - the technology industry is close nit. Yet also note that the markup on both computers is tiny. So without high volumes, manufactures will not be excited to build educational computers, no matter the organization behind them.

  2. Shifting Funding
    Next, with governments focused on overcoming the Great Recession, there is little room for new spending in education, which impacts any ICT for education investment. Also the network and support infrastructure for computers in schools is lacking in many countries (including the USA), another expense for governments thinking about computers in schools.

  3. Still No Results
    Looking past pretty pictures and parental assumptions, there still isn't any proof that computers increase learning in schools over the long term. All we know is that parents and geeks believe in OLPC miracles, but one could argue that any gizmo introduced with the same fanfare would create the attendance and school envy outcomes OLPC notes.

Classmate PC is good for OLPC

olpc classmate pc
A conjoined 4PC sales future

In the big picture, and this may be the most inflammatory for the Intel haters, I'm starting to believe that Intel's Classmate PC is the best thing that ever happened to OLPC, and any weakness with Classmate will erode the progress we've seen with 1CC.

With direct competition, the OLPC organization muted its arrogance, toned down its messiah complex, and even muzzled Negroponte to an extent, as it got down to the business of actual implementation. They've even shifted the learning team to a deployment country (Rwanda).

If the Classmate stumbles, I'm worried we'll see a resurgence of Negropontism that will be unbearable the second time around.

Here is Jeff Galinovsky of Intel pitching the Classmate PC at a conference:

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Intel has done vapourware marketing for the Classmate only to try to stop/slow down efforts of OLPC to reach more chilren in developing countries.

Intel has in fact done very little to actually provide those laptops to the children. Intel uses it exclusively in their marketing to trash-talk OLPC’s open-source Hardware revolution.

OLPC Schools with full one-laptop-per-child in Third world countries: 15'000
Classmate schools on this planet: Close to zero appart from the few made-up photo-opportunities used in Intel's trash talk an fear-uncertainty-an-doubt marketing.

Intel hates Moore's law of laptops being half the price every 18 months. Gordon Moore was probably fired by Intel in 1997 because his law was incompatible with Intel's corporate strategy of constantly inflating computer prices with bloat ware.

Cheaper laptops means less profit for Intel and other established Silicon Valley giants.

Read my post again.

Thanks to OLPC, more than 15'000 schools in poor/developing countries have full 1-laptop to each child in the schools.

Think again please, anyone that still trash talk OLPC:

There are over 1 million chilren using the XO-1 every day, that is more than 15'000 complete schools.

It's not 1 or 2 pilot projects here and there. This is tens of thousands of schools, complete villages, complete regions where every child has one.

And even with unstable Internet access, untrained teachers, not-yet fully digitized/adapted content and curriculum, children, even with missing Flash-support and the unoptimized XO-1 AMD Geode processor platform, children, teachers and parents overwhelmingly find this project to be extremely successful.

The poorer the region and the kids families are, the biggest an best the impact is per $188 spent on this project. Of course one nees food, water, medicine and power. Getting OLPC actually has been proven to accelerate and improve the deployment of these other necessities.

Charbax, please.

We know Intel is a predatory monopoly. The EU have posted some well documented evidence about that.

The world is a place with predatory companies (and humans). You will have to realize your plans while they are around. Just like malaria mosquitoes and tsee-tsee flies in Africa, they won't go away in short order.

However much I agree with your assessment of Intel's marketing, if the OLPC wants to succeed, they will have to do that while Intel, Microsoft, and all the others around.

It is adapt, evade, and defend or die.

Listing the successes of the OLPC is good as a reminder. But Wayan has a point about competition: Without it, people become complacent.

A little like birds on an isolated island. The first mainland predator getting on the island will exterminate them.


Intel is not competition.

If there was real competition in this market, we would have had $50 Laptops that run 50 hours on a battery several years ago.

This is not about market forces and free market competition, this is about Politics.

Obama and other world leaders have to decide to make OLPC happen faster.

"Intel is not competition."

Intel is like malaria: If you want to live in the tropics, you will have to cope with it. If you produce computers, you will have to cope with Intel.

There are ways to cope with malaria, and there are ways to cope with Intel.

Deal with it or die. It is that simple.


"Looking past pretty pictures and parental assumptions, there still isn't any proof that computers increase learning in schools over the long term. All we know is that parents and geeks believe in OLPC miracles, but one could argue that any gizmo introduced with the same fanfare would create the attendance and school envy outcomes OLPC notes."

After 2 years you cannot really expect results about long term benefits, can you.

It is not like you can increase the heat to simulate aging in children.

And if you know about any educational reforms that was based on proven long term benefits, ever, I would really like you to share it with us.

As far as I can remember, every reform, from school lunches to books, standardized tests, and libraries were motivated by parents and politicians believing it would help. In general, these believes were well founded but still untested in education.

And, conversely, how often was a reform reverted because the long term benefits proved elusive?

In my country they just evaluated 3 decades of educational reform. The conclusion was that there was no relation between scientific studies, teacher experiences, and politics. And never was a reform evaluated until the last 5 years. (and this evaluation was the direct cause of the larger policy evaluation)

I have no indication that things are different elsewhere.


Winter wrote:

"Looking past pretty pictures and parental assumptions, there still isn't any proof that computers increase learning in schools over the long term. All we know is that parents and geeks believe in OLPC miracles, but one could argue that any gizmo introduced with the same fanfare would create the attendance and school envy outcomes OLPC notes."

After 2 years you cannot really expect results about long term benefits, can you.


well, it is not 2 years. The effectiveness of computers in education has been an elusive target for more than 20 years.

There is also the failed Senegal project:

and a very enlightening perspective of a true insider:

Here we go again....

What bout this simple explanation. There are much better netbooks now that the classmate/XO-1 class of machines.
No one cares to promote the classmate because of minimal profit margins.
That's all.
Look at the netbook market. Still going strong.

Regarding "Negropotism", classmate was never the deterrent. Implementation issues and the netbook boom were. And still are.

So now the (usual) main event.
Irv vs Carbax (and everybody else) in 15 rounds.
The fight is to death (our death :-)

"So now the (usual) main event. "

Not me!

You said it better than I could. I simply agree with you.



Last week I visited Cali, Colombia and tried to find the PC Classmate for sale there. It is not available, since its Colombian company does not sell it anymore according to its website.

The Classmate is basically an Atom Processor Netbook. With other ones available for adults, there is not enough differences for children that can not also be purchased for their parents.

The Digitimes article did in fact leave out the 35 other local manufacturers around the world, most in large developing countries, who manufacture Classmates under license from Intel (I understand under favorable terms).

France's Archos launched Classmates in France and the UK in June, with plans for half a dozen other European countries. These machines are manufactured in China.

Sugar on a Stick boots the Gen1 and Gen2 Classmates I have, and when I get ahold of a Gen3 swivel touchscreen model, I'm sure I'll be able to boot that one as well.

I understand there are at least 400,000 Classmates deployed worldwide, although there may be as many as three times that number. They are expensive, not least because of the software stack (Windows XP + kids desktop + wintel ecosystem software).

Take a look at this video to see how Intel pitches the project to its partners:

I myself think it could be interesting to convert a couple of hundred thousand Classmates to Sugar, which in my view would be beneficial both to the children and to OLPC.


It has been reported that the Classmates that came in to be handed out to The Right People in Bolivia came with Mandriva pre-installed.

Interestingly, "someone" loaded instead that legacy system, which asks for a license number after 30 days :-)

Which meant they were crying for help not soon thereafter, and one of our FOSS people, always helpful as we are, loaded Sugar and had a chance to educate several of these. High fives all around.

Anyway, there was also the announcement that the Classmates for Bolivia would be "made" in Bolivia... No details that means anything besides putting a sticker with the word "Yupana" on top. Alas. There was somewhere in the internet a picture of a good 30 or so "national" classmates... I find it endearing that the Portuguese say that their "Magalhaő" is their own design thorough.

Excellent insight. You pointed out the basic issue of lack of funding, but did not dwell on that point. I wish you would write your next post on how we can energize the funding support base for OLPC.

I support OLPC mainly because it provides a vast change from top-down, talking heads and "memorize it, take the test and forget it" education. It may take time and effort to "prove" to the unconvincables that laptops do improve the quality of learning. The agenda of the unconvincables against the laptop and the Internet is that it brings new ideas onto the platform, which ideas such as democracy, economic justice in the work place and other egalitarian ideas, is not to their liking.

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