Even though I'm actually sick of hearing all the "Intel dumped OLPC" (or was it the other way 'round?) stories I feel the need to add my own voice to the discussion.
First of all let me tell you that I'm really platform-agnostic when it comes to delivering laptops as educational tools to children. Honestly, why should I care whether the technology inside that machine comes from AMD, Intel, VIA or some random ARM-producer?
It's about children having access to a suitable information and communication device for educational purposes, right? Or is about one company being more or less evil (depending on which fanboy you ask) than the other one?
Computers are a business
What many people who are claiming that Intel might just be the next worst thing after Satan himself seem to be forgetting is that all of the companies involved in OLPC are for-profit entities which have the same desire to please their shareholders at the end of each quarter - just like Intel.
Yes, Intel has done some rather not-so-nice things in the past and there's certainly a reason why justice departments around the world have launched investigations into the company's dealings. However such is the nature of business and whining about it has the same effect as calling out the biggest bully in school for being a bully and complaining about him to everyone who wants to listen to you: He won't care and still steal your lunch-money the next time you walk into the school yard.
That's exactly what's happening here and from where I'm standing Nicholas Negroponte's complaints in major newspapers around the world hasn't had any effect whatsoever. It especially hasn't had any positive effects on those children which we aim to equip with a laptop for educational purposes. And they're the only reason why we're doing this, right?
In my opinion what Negroponte and OLPC should be doing instead of whining is looking at the reasons why governments and other organizations are actually considering the Intel Classmate PC to be a worthy device for helping in children's education. In terms of the product itself there's hardly anyone who claims that the Classmate is a better device than the XO-1.
So it must be something else.
Maybe the fact that Intel offers a viable plan when it comes to support? (Sarcastic voice in my head: "Oh, no, I almost forgot that children will be able to do 99.9999% of the repairs themselves.") Or the fact that according to reports from places such as Nigeria Intel has been more active when it comes to teacher-training? ("We don't need teacher training, in fact we don't need teachers at all. Children will figure it all out by themselves.")
Or maybe that Intel also provides organizations and NGOs with the option to purchase Classmates in quanities as low as 100 units? ("We don't talk to anyone unless he wants to buy 10.000+ laptops.") Or a simple thing such as the fact that many teachers want to print out the materials they have created? ("We don't need no edu.... ehhhh.... paper!") I could go on but I think you got the point.
Against all odds (and even though Wintel initially laughed at the project) OLPC has managed to design one hell of a machine. No, it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn good. OLPC beat Intel and Microsoft at their own game, no small victory I might add.
Now OLPC needs to apply that same mindset to softer (but no less important) issues such as activity development, creating learning materials, hardware support, supporting local grassroots organizations, etc. in order to provide a best-of-class educational platform.
Because at the end of the day "It's an education project, not a laptop project" so instead of complaining about Intel messing with OLPC's laptop business I'd rather like to see them spend more time on the educational side of things and addressing the needs by children, teachers, educators and governments.
Because otherwise Intel might just end up beating OLPC at the game they themselves invented.