Don't Let Intel Beat OLPC at Its Own Game

   
   
   
   
   

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.

olpc classmate
Does platform really matter?

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.


Convince the government buyers

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.

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48 Comments

Truly excellent, even-handed assessment of the current state of affairs.

I have said it before and will say it now: the OLPC problems are NOT because of Intel, Microsoft, Elvis or The Chupacabras.

The problems are a direct result of Negroponte's bizarre claims and announcements.

Vitually no one in the world will believe that handing children a laptop with an assortment of generic applications will magically result in a "constructivist learning environment".

The XO computer is about 75% done - there are major issues to sort out:

1. Printing
2. Crank power generation
3. File System
4. Radom crashes/slowness, bugs, etc.
5. Battery life

The educational aspect of the OLPC Project is at 0%.

1. No real educational software (only a small collection of ported pre-existing generic applications)
2. No real educational strategy: how does a collection of generic applications magically result in "constructivism"?
3. No real plan for classroom implementation: how is the XO supposed to be used in the classroom?

As mentioned in the article, there is no technical support - nobody in his right mind will seriously believe that kids will fix hardware/software issues. It just unthinkable that Negrponte would try to sell such absurd ideas to the public.

As anyone can see, none of this has *nothing* to do with Intel or any competing products.

Even if we believe the XO is the absolutely best laptop for kids in the world, the issues listed above are serious and numerous enough that no responsible country should invest any money un what is clearly a very untested, un-finished product.


Irvin,

I hope that you are joking with the above reply, because if not then I think you either don't read or are a 5 year old how is typing on his Mums PC, and if you are only 5 then I think that it is past your bedtime.

Where to start..?

Intel, is a Sales machine, they are selling laptops to the same market they are meant to be supporting the OLPC project in? And OLPC have issued statements in response to the statements issued by Intel, they are not wining!

"a direct result of Negroponte's bizarre claims"
Like the bizarre claim that he was going to release a $100 laptop for the third world, yes I would agree with you on that point.

"Printing" - Er Why? What do you need a printer for when you have a School Server and mesh network?

"2. Crank power generation" - Why? The classmate seems to be able to be sold without one?

"1. No real educational software (only a small collection of ported pre-existing generic applications)"

What do you call educational software, what is "squeek"?

http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Software_components

Contents
[hide]

* 1 Operating system
* 2 Programming environment
o 2.1 Libraries
o 2.2 User environment
* 3 Applications
o 3.1 Tools for exploring
o 3.2 Tools for expressing
o 3.3 Tools for communicating
o 3.4 Other Tools
o 3.5 Online Applications
o 3.6 Games
o 3.7 Shared Applications
o 3.8 Running other Linux apps
* 4 Mesh Networking
* 5 School Server
* 6 Additional Software projects
* 7 Builds, images, and schedules
* 8 See also

"3. No real plan for classroom implementation: how is the XO supposed to be used in the classroom?" - A conventional Classroom, It's Not!


"As mentioned in the article, there is no technical support - nobody in his right mind will seriously believe that kids will fix hardware/software issues. It just unthinkable that Negrponte would try to sell such absurd ideas to the public." - Let me take a wild guess you are sitting infront of a Windows PC, maybe even a Mac and have never worked on a Helpdesk, know what IRC stands for or can understand the meaning of FAQ?

If I am wrong and this is your Mum that I am typing to then I owe you an apology :)

Irvin:

I partially agree with you. There are some flaws in the current implementation of OLPC as it is.

However, the existing functionality, plus the openness and accessibility of the platform, override these flaws. I believe any kid that gets his or her hands on one of these things will have an amazing world to explore. The lack of completeness and polish should serve as a springboard for the kids to want to contribute, learn, and improve their machines. Being passive receivers of commercial-grade software does not prepare one for learning. The open design of these boxes will, I believe, engender the hands-on mentality required for life as a participatory world citizen.

cambarne's post is beneath discussion.

Mitch

Please note this is just my opinion.

Technical support? I remember calling to get technical support from major companies like Intel a couple of times. I quickly learned that the quality and response time of "technical support" varies widely.

Meanwhile, I have been drinking from a fire hose of information at the OLPC News Forum site. I have also found the more "official" OLPC offerings to be quite useful. It seems to me that there are, in English at least, many more "technical support" offerings for OLPC at this point, with a tendency toward faster responses. And I have seen more quality answers appear in postings that I ever got from paid technical support. Of course, I am not a government or major corporation.

The one thing I really get angry at all this intel separation is overeporting by misinformed news source. I've read comments on this story that seemed as if intel was with OLPC since the beginning, as if they had anything to do with the laptop design and production and as if this breakup would be a serious blow between two partners..

Intel came in and came out, the breakup got a lot moe media than people understand the facts..

A simple question for everyone focusing on both pros and cons of OLPC!!! Have you lived in a developing/poor country and experienced how education is delivered there at a grassroot level???? In order to bring measurable, substantive and visible difference to the third world's education, one must understand, appreciate and know how to implement changes on the ground. The issue is not about OLPC vs anyone else. The real issue is education and hence please focus on that. And I can tell you from my own experience that no matter what tools you provide, if you don't have an effective way to use of those tools, those would remain as tools only, nothing more. OLPC initiative is a noble one and initiated in the right direction. Does it mean its perfect, absolutely not, do they have an implementation plan, not yet, or not one that I know of. Let's all help the organization/and others like Intel or anyone else for that matter to achieve that goal.

The whole project seems to be about stroking Negroponte's ego. The proponents of OLPC fail to understand the very real constraints that children and schools in developing countries work under.

There is abundant evidence that providing laptops or desktops to children in the developed world does not contribute significantly to their education. Why would one expect that providing laptops to children in the developing world is going to result in a different outcome ?

OLPC is a religion.
Negroponte's religion.
Unfortunately for him and his credibility, the world does not believe in his religion.
His OLPC religion seems akin to a crank cult to me.

"nobody in his right mind will seriously believe that kids will fix hardware/software issues"


This statement depends upon your definition of "kid". 5 to 8 year olds are probably too young to fix the machines, but my 10 year old has the deductive reasoning and dexterity to replace broken parts in our family PC. I provided some initial training, but after that he has properly diagnosed failures and fixed them. Admittedly he does not have the skills (yet) to fix software problems, but a few more years and some training on how to properly describe the symptoms will allow him to enter a Google query which results in an answer he can apply all by himself.


Sure enough, there is some training that needs to happen, but just as in Boy Scouts, you have the older kids teach the younger ones.


Finally, I will point out that "in the day" my college professors didn't have a clue about computers. Before the Internet, most of my education occurred via bulletin board systems, local user groups, and a few phone calls to other nerds who were always willing to help me with any technical questions.

from a Pakistani paper -

http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=89755

In this region, Afghanistan has the OLPC project operating in some areas — mostly to mixed reviews. The reviews are mixed because whilst the hardware does what it says on the box there is a failure in the wetware (i.e. human) department. You need teachers who know how to get the best out of the opportunities opened up by having a laptop and teachers in Afghanistan are no more computer literate than teachers in Pakistan. Teacher training in Pakistan is woefully inadequate in all departments and virtually absent in respect of information technology. There is no reason why Pakistan should not, in the end, benefit from the OLPC project and perhaps the delay in its implementation should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat, with there being a push to up-skill the national cohort of teachers before the laptops hit the desks. Pakistan desperately needs a generation of computer-literate children, but simply throwing laptops at them will not produce the desired outcome. Training teachers to train children, will.

Nigerian paper

http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=99381

OLPC's casual approach to matching its offering to Nigeria's educational agenda is causing it to lose ground against Intel, which has successfully integrated its Classmate PCs in secondary schools, Mogensen (Anders Mogensen, co-founder of Seismonaut, which carried out an assessment of an OLPC pilot project in a government-run primary school in Abuja, Nigeria, for the Danish government.) said. Nigeria follows a strict curriculum for students based on specific study material, and Intel is working with the government and schools to integrate Classmate PCs into curricula. OLPC has yet to clarify its plans to support curricula, Mogensen said.
OLPC in Nigeria is primarily involved in promoting the idea of the laptop rather than working with the government to develop a structure to implement the curricula, Mogensen said.

Technophobe teachers wasting millions - England
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article3142536.ece

Schools in England spent £1 billion last year on computers, interactive whiteboards that link to teachers’ laptops, and electronic home access for children.

Mr Crowne said that technology “could be used to teach hard-to-reach children such as travellers or those in hospital”. He added: “But we think only about 20 per cent of schools and colleges are bringing it all together and delivering the full benefit. Some need further training for a shared understanding of how to use it. It’s quite intimidating technology for some teachers, and more so when children know more about it than they do.”

Teacher training in IT has to meet only vague criteria. Teachers must pass an IT test at GCSE level before qualifying. It covers basic skills such as using e-mails, spreadsheets and a word-processor.

Since receiving my XO the day before Christmas I have become a daily user of the machine for personal use. However I am unable to use the XO for college because of a few critical flaws, 1 write has no spell checker, 2 no printer, 3 no educational schedule software. The software does have a few other minor issues but no less then what is expected from MAC or Windows. My primary use for the XO is as an ebook reader of DRM free books and in this roll I think it beats every other ebook device on the market and that is considering the extremely short battery life and the fact the READ doesn’t bookmark your page. Over all my assessment of the device is that it does have a few critical flaws that need to be address and without question needs a better battery that can last a school day, but it is better for students to have the machines now and receive software updates as needed.

One of the great things about the Activity setup is that when someone thinks of a good printer solution or school scheduler an activity can be created to do the function.

If anyone from OLPC reads this forum please note that the XO needs a better battery from all the boasting that OLPC made about low power consumption and battery life of 3-5 hours of isn’t impressive. If I am surfing the web I get a little over 3 hours if I am using ebook with backlight off I only get a little over 4 hours.

Comrades,
The goal of OLPC project is to change education paradigm.
Let’s have a look at the current situation from political point of view. (Education is a part of political system.)
• People are ready for a new education paradigm
• Technology is in place
• The only missing link is political and ideological “constructivist” movement.

Mr. Negroponte has a brilliant mind and powerful ideas. Unfortunately, he makes mistakes and the main one is the failure to create a political movement around OLPC project. Without movement, OLPC project looks like an attempt to create monopoly on education market for chosen ones (AMD vs. Intel).
May be it’s time for us to get inspired by Green Party and organise Constructivist Party?

This guy says that's just the problem, people don't want their educational systems changed. That's why they go with the Classmate that plugs into their existing system.

http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/NussbaumOnDesign/archives/2008/01/one_laptop_per.html

Y'know, Intel bailed out rather than honor a contract.

Caw!

Irvin wrote:
The same things he wrote countless times in the last month, without bothering to acknowledge the information he was offered by others
(search for "Posted by Irvin", you will see the exact same fallacies and discussions time and again)

In short, he has not written a single kind word about the OLPC or anyone working for them. All he does is repackaging other peoples complaints (an never their praise).

On the other side, s/he has not shown any kind of understanding about the problems s/he noted. For one thing, there will be no crank and that was decided 2 years ago. However, there are several other power options available s/he ignores.

As (clean) paper is extremely scarce in the target communities, the OLPC did not develop printing software. The current options are too bulky for the XO. Maybe the OLPC should go by way of the PDFCreator for windows. Print to PDF and then try to create a PDF viewer/printer activity.

All the problems Irvin mentions are under active development. Any large scale buyer can get the software and hardware installed she wants. Countries like Brazil can simply create what they need.

However, there is NO indication this Irvin person will actually write positive about the OLPC if these "problems" would be cured.

Areaf wrote:
"There is abundant evidence that providing laptops or desktops to children in the developed world does not contribute significantly to their education. Why would one expect that providing laptops to children in the developing world is going to result in a different outcome ?"

Actually, you have not done your homework. See
http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.150.html
(eg, go for the UNESCO publications)

"OLPC is a religion.
Negroponte's religion.
Unfortunately for him and his credibility, the world does not believe in his religion.
His OLPC religion seems akin to a crank cult to me."

Why are you posting here if you are neither interested in the XO, nor in education (see above) and you think all supporters of the OLPC are cranks? In short, what is YOUR motivation to post?

Winter

Does platform matter?

Yes, it does.

The Classmate etc are inadequate for elementary school children. They rely on many things that only high school children really can master. The XO was developed so even elementary children that cannot even read (or read well) can use almost everything in it.

The platform determines the security. The XO was designed ground up to protect the children. The security of the children was decisive for every design choice.

The Classmate, especially with XP loaded, has no real security policy. XP only secures MS with a "blaming the victim" pseudo security. Linux will secure the machine, but not protect the child. Anyhow, the security "policies" of the Classmate are too difficult even for high school children or teachers. The XO has implemented the state of the art in compact embeded security.

The XO is build around sharing and group work. The Classmate is build around individual office workers doing their work in isolation. With the XO, elementary school children can work together at individual files without even having to think. With the Classmate, there must be a groupwork product, eg Sharepoint, running on the school server. Group activities can only be performed in a limited fashion in the classroom.

Using computers in the classroom is mostly a waste of time. If a teacher is available, she should teach. Other work should be done outside the classroom, or even school. Groupwork can be done with the XO outside the school. But not with the Classmate.

The XO is a wonderful machine everywhere. The Classmate is isolated outside the Classroom (hence it's name?).

Witner

Winter, this time 'round you're missing the point. There's no argueing that the OLPC XO is a better machine than the Intel Classmate and the aspects you're mentioning (collaboration, security, connectivity, etc.) are only some of the many advantages the device has. However that's beside the point if children don't get an XO but a Classmate because governments and large organizations decide that Intel is offering a better overall deal by including things such as teacher training, support, developing plans on how the machine can be used with a country's curiculum, etc. These are areas where OLPC has unfortunately been lacking and I'm afraid that this is detrimental to overall effort. Please also see the interesting articles above linked by Civilian (thanks btw!), especially this one here: http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=99381

So, I absolutely agree with you, platform does matter and personally I want all the children to get XOs!

"However that's beside the point if children don't get an XO but a Classmate because governments and large organizations decide that Intel is offering a better overall deal by including things such as teacher training, support, developing plans on how the machine can be used with a country's curiculum, etc."

Of course, a Classmate could indeed be better than no laptop. That was not my point. I just wanted to show that platform DOES matter.

I will retain a slight reservation as I still see aspects in the Classmate's security and software that might offset it's benefits. But these can result from my ignorance as Intel is not really forthcomming with detailed information about their offerings.

The sum is, that Intel is offering $1B in perks you mention on top of the Classmate's sale price. These extras are important but expensive. When a government goes for the OLPC, they will have to pay for these extras. If they go for the Classmate, Intel will subsedize them.

The OLPC do not have $1B to "market" the XO. And I can understand why they feel $1B in subsedies is not "fair competition".

On another note. I am wondering why Intel has not sold too many of their Classmates yet to developping countries?

They do have the marketting force and the $1B fund. And we saw many comments on OLPCnews that told us it was a marvelous stable and secure laptop with all the really important compatibillity with the West.

The only reason I can think of is that old quote from Intel that they don't want to sell more Classmates than the OLPC sells XOs. Why would that be?

Winter

Winter, I think the reason why Intel isn't selling too many Classmate PCs at the moment (at least not that we know of) is simply because the device itself isn't all that great (especially compared to the XO) and I think everyone understands that.

Honestly, I think it's a really tough call for governments these days and that's why we see situations like the one in Brazil at the moment.

Personally, my original dream when I heard about Intel joining OLPC's board was that Intel would focus on building a killer XO-2 machine while OLPC would do what it does best: turn a "laptop" into an "educational tool" by means of Sugar, activities, educational content, etc. But I think we can all agree that this bubble burst. :-(

"I will retain a slight reservation as I still see aspects in the Classmate's security and software that might offset it's benefits. But these can result from my ignorance as Intel is not really forthcomming with detailed information about their offerings."

On that point.

Has anyone actually seen the "pedagogical software solution" Intel talks about? We know what applications are included so far on XO as their information is readly available on their website. However, with Intel, all we seem to be getting are various articles with bits of info coming straight from their PR machine.

Any independent reviews of the educational applications included on the Classmate PC out there ...?

ChrisophD,

I think you said it better than I could have.

Winter

Winter,
I agree that OLPC cannot subsedies the same way that Intel does, but OLPC should have instructions on how to use the software already on the XO. Personally when I develop software I write instruction manuals for the users as part of the software contract and in addition to the manual I have help functions. I cannot find any reason why OLPC wouldn't include an instruction manual for the XO activities. I think if OLPC did include manuals it would go a long way to placating concerns about the XO software.

Jeremy, there's a quick "getting started" guide over on laptop.org (see http://www.laptop.org/en/laptop/start/ for details) that gives a reasonable overview of the laptop, collaboration, Journal, etc. However I do agree with you that a significantly more extensive activity-documentation is needed to highlight and showcase some of the outstanding things you can do with the XO. (My personal favourite is still the acoustic tape measure, I really love that one!)

I'm not the only one noticing that the XO has quite a few issues to resolve before countries can place significant amount of orders.

Please, read a very scathing, but accurate review of the XO's current features:

http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10472304

Irvin wrote:
"Please, read a very scathing, but accurate review of the XO's current features:"

Irvin, didn't you call each and every "scathing" review of the OLPC "accurate" and every "praise" inaccurate?

Now for the accuracy:
"Today that optimism seems Pollyannaish. Many governments (including Nigeria’s and Libya’s) cancelled their informal commitments to purchase the machines when they realised the devices were untried, the price higher than envisaged and other cheap laptops available."

That is not completely accurate. Eg, the prices rose mostly AFTER the cancelations. And they were untried even before the commitments were made (so the committers just didn't realize?). It is unclear to me whether the Nigerian government was aware of the Classmate when they got this libelous letter from Intel, but there is more to Intel's action than just fielding a competing product.

Maybe the journalist got some secret inside information to be so specific. Or maybe he is just putting some soundbites onto his piece.

"A clever holiday promotion in North America that offered two laptops—one for the buyer and one to donate to a child in a developing country—for $399 similarly fizzled. Production lines at Quanta Computer, a Taiwanese manufacturer, were left idle. "

The OLPC had more problems due to the demand, than due to lack of demand. An many people were unable to order.

"In their zeal to rewrite the rules of computing for first-time users, OLPC shipped machines with a cumbersome operating system."

Then follows a whole lot of talk about things the XO was not intended for. Furthermore, Sugar is anything, except cumbersome. Indeed, this is no office computer, it is not even intended to be that. So complaining it isn't your run of the mill desktop system for office and entertainment is rather puzzeling.

"There was a lack of documentation, support and methods to integrate the PCs into school curricula, teacher training, and the like."

At least that might be accurate.

However, the OLPC's aim was to design a computer that didn't need much training. Furthermore, these computers are bought in tenders. The local integrator will have to add this material in the bid. It is easy to calculate that training teachers will cost around $60 (max) per XO TCO. How on earth the OLPC, or anyone else, can integrate the OLPC into every possible curriculum on the planet without Intel's $1B subsidy is beyond me.

What is completely ignored is the fact that the XO is for regions where teachers are extremely scarce and badly trained to begin with. Asking for "curriculum integration" and teacher ICT training there sounds like Ghandi's answer to "What do you think of Western Civilization?", definitely a "Good Idea". Please tell me how you want to do that.

"Three.. Since the project launched in 2005, commercial rivals have emerged:"

Indeed, and they are all more expensive, less integrated, less secure, and just as untried. But, hey, they do have multi billion dollar marketting departments.

"Lately, Intel has supported OLPC, though this week said it would leave its board, and Microsoft is trying to tweak Windows XP, an earlier operating system, to work on the XO. But all computer buyers will have to compare the XP(sic) to a lot of other products in the market—something that never seemed to have struck OLPC’s staffers as a possibility, but should have."

I seem to have missed how Intel supported the OLPC. They sat on the board and did nothing. MS has little hope to get XP working on the XO (and it would be a disaster if the children got it for many reasons).

How the OLPC should have prepared for competition from people who told the world it needed intelligent cell-phones and derided the initiative in every way they could is again beyond me.

"The OLPC staff will need to learn to listen to the candid criticism of outsiders for the second-generation of the laptop—or they do not deserve to build one."

Could be a good one. However, if most critcs is of the sort expounded at the economist, there is rather little to learn. "Integration into the curriculum" and "better software" sounds nice. But how to do that is not often (never) heard. Most criticism is also of the sort that requires capabilities (eg, Flash) that would eat up all storage with little benefit for the target children.

"Mr Negroponte’s vision for a $100 laptop was not the right computer, only the right price."

That is a really nice soundbite, but lousy journalism. The XO is still the only laptop that has any chance of getting to a exchange rate corrected price of $100. And it still beats all the others in capabilities (ultra sensitive mesh Wifi, ultra low power consumption, low weight, ruggedness).

Irvin, the only accurate part seems to be about the fact that the first batch of XOs still has problems. All the rest is whining about the OLPC XO not being an office computer.

But one thing is clear. This journalist is repeating your complaints as if you mailed them to him. Except that he forgot about the printer. So at least I cannot say you are the only one to air them
(I never said that, because I have seen your complaints written almost word for word so many times on OLPCnews that I have come to believe there is some central repository you download them from)

Winter

Winter wrote:

"the prices rose mostly AFTER the cancelations. And they were untried even before the commitments were made (so the committers just didn't realize?)."

Negroponte & Co. misled you (you're still confused as we can see from your post) and millions of other people claiming to have "orders" in the millions, when in reality, there was nothing concrete at the time.

The price of the XO doubled before anyone actually placed an order. Several excuses were given for the price increase, including the cost of a better processor, the increased price of some metallic components, etc.

In short, there were no "cancellations", because there were no official orders at any time. Negroponte made it up in order to hype his project.

The rest of the post merits no comment.

Of course, the cancellations and OLPC's woes could not possibly have anything to do with:
Microsoft's generous sponsorship of the Egyptian president's wife's educational trust
Intel's generous, lavish, sponsorship of projects directly associated with individuals in the Nigerian government. One Nigerian government official has described this as "transaction-based government".

As much as it displeases me, I have to agree with Irvin - Negroponte never had any big orders, by his own admission, he was bluffing: http://www.olpcnews.com/commentary/press/masi_oka_olpc_spokesperson.html

And that brings into question Negroponte's instance that its Intel and not his own sales failure, that moved the volume/price balance.

I want to make the following absolutely clear: I do not mean to assert that Microsoft or Intel are engaged in illegal activities. I have no knowledge of any such, and given the scrutiny of these firms do not imagine that there's anything illegal actually going on. They, like other large corporations, can and do undertake activities that assist decisions, in ways that sometimes look rough-and-tumble but are still entirely lega.. This is simply an area where OLPC cannot match the large companies.

Anonymous, I certainly do believe that Intel and Microsoft might play the occasional dirty trick to keep their business going. As mentioned in my article, there is a reason why many governments around the world are investigating these companies' dealings.

However short of bribing people themselves there's nothing OLPC can do about it and I'm glad that they're taking the high-road here and don't get into legally grey-areas. However what OLPC can (and should IMHO) do is to listen to the feedback coming in from the countries and work on providing a better educational platform that integrates into the local environment, customs and curiculum. Because I strongly believe that once OLPC is able to provide a significantly better overall solution it's going to be very hard if not impossible (or at least very expensive;-) for Intel and Microsoft to argue against that.

However this is certainly a time-critical issue. It's not going to take that much longer for Intel to come up with a Classmate 2 (that could easily feature a Mesh network and use one of the improved low-power and mobile chipset/processor combos) while Microsoft is hard at work to come up with a version of Windows XP that runs well on devices such as the XO, eee PC, et al. (On a sidenote: I have used a standard Windows XP on a Geode LX-800 based system with 256MB of RAM and while it won't break any speed records it is definitely a very usable system.)

Chris,
I have read getting started, but to say it is light in documentation is an understatement. I have made a few Wiki edits to help other users though. However what is gleamed from observation shouldn't really be considered documentation. For example in write I have found that write knows when something is spelled wrong but the program doesn't seem to have a spell checker ... is that true I don't know. I have also discovered with READ that books opened from a SD card will not save the page even when resumed from Journal.

Better documentation would help users like myself use programs better. Before you ask about write, I did buy a wireless keyboard.

Irvin wrote:
"In short, there were no "cancellations", because there were no official orders at any time. Negroponte made it up in order to hype his project."

So the Economist was inaccurate in calling this "Many governments (including Nigeria’s and Libya’s) cancelled their informal commitments to purchase the machines when they realised the devices were untried, the price higher than envisaged and other cheap laptops available."

Which is just what I was saying.

The change of chip and the added SD slot increased costs because they were needed (Python needs a cache) and requested by the "customers" (memory expansion). Calling these changes "excuses" is a completely new use of the word. These changes were unfortunate but necessary.

"The rest of the post merits no comment."

Of course, they never do.

To Wayan and others.

The confirmed Intel $1B fund to "market" the Classmate is obviously used to subsidize sales. Eg, they pay for the teacher training etc. At the (negative?) margins they must sell the Classmate to governments, they will never be able to recoup that fund. The same holds for MS that sells XP at 1% of the regular price.

This is called "dumping". Any Nigerian, Brazilian, or Chinese company caught doing that will get punished.

But it has been written elsewhere, governments NEVER buy from those who sell the best solutions at the lowest cost. They sell to those with the best contacts.

Personally, I consider everyone who calls Negroponte a liar and cheat for his sales pitch but lauds Intel and MS for their "salesmanship" a hypocrit. Either he is allowed to fight with the same weapons, and you don't complain, or you deny everyone these weapons.

On another account, can anyone explain to me what Negroponte's role in the OLPC exactly is?

Whenever there is something done of substance, I hear from everyone but Negroponte. However, on this site, Everyone seems to focus exclusively on his every word. Maybe a "who does what" article would be informative.

Winter

Winter, according to his page (http://web.media.mit.edu/~nicholas/) Nicholas Negroponte "is founder and chairman of the One Laptop per Child non-profit association". In 2006 (I believe it was the TED conference) he referred to himself as 'the whole sales and marketing team' of OLPC. Personally I'd consider him to be the godfather and main voice of the project, on some occasions Walter Bender also appears in the media (mostly in ICT related publications) but in general Negroponte is the one people talk to. IIRC he spends >300 days per year travelling around the world so apart from being OLPC's voice he's also the face that most people connect with the project.

Both to Negroponte-lovers and -bashers, could we please focus on how to get best out of these educational tools rather than discussing who is behind it. Again, I think most people are missing the point!!!!! Its not I, you or anyone else that matters, its the kids of the developing/poor countries. So please discuss concrete ideas on how to make things happen on the ground with whatever tools we have at our hands.

What Binay said!!!
At least Mr. Negroponte has started something for the children. It may not be perfect yet, but it is way more than they have had before. And it makes people aware of the problems and collaborate on solutions!

This is how classmate describes it's mesh system:
System Configuration: Software
TopDomain Mythware e-Learning Classroom*
Purpose
* Enable a productive computer-based student/teacher pedagogical interaction.

Motivation
* Classroom control is the number one concern teachers have in adopting new teaching methods and technologies in the classroom.

Capabilities
* Student's and Teacher's devices are able to discover and attach themselves to available wireless virtual classrooms.
* Teachers can lock student devices.
* Teachers can stream multimedia class material to student devices.
* Teachers can monitor in-class actions on student devices.
* Allows teachers to provide individual and group interactive instruction.
http://www.classmatepc.com/classmate-pc-benefits.html

I'm not sure but I don't think the teacher can control the student XO. Which, as an educational system (not just the hardware part) makes the Classmate more appealing to government buyers than the XO. It's just easier to drop into their existing system and Intel's around to help them do that. The XO, with constructivism as it's goal, would require a lot of teacher training (not in using the XO, but in implementing constructivism as envisioned by OLPC). I think part of the problem is buying the XO means buying constructivism and most countries don't have a problem with rote learning (ie Classmate).

This seems appropriate in regards to all the above, please head over to Groklaw and read the interview with Mary Lou Jepsen regarding the OLPC.

(Some of the links inside the story referencing Intel's Classmate are unintentionally funny - but upon reflection, more like "sad" funny...)

Interview with OLPC's Founding CTO Mary Lou Jepsen, by Sean Daly
http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20080107182525297

Ken, thanks for the link, that's indeed a very interesting interview and I can't wait to see what Mary Lou Jepsen and Pixel Qi come up with over the next few years...

Maddie: The Classmate's Mesh networking is based upon the latest IEEE 802.11s spec. However, its not envisioned that Mesh will be used in the classrooms or school, although it could be. Its targeted more at peer interaction and in situations where there is no wireless network infrastructure in place or alternatively where one or more devices may act as a portal sharing the Internet. What you are referring to is Classroom Management software which provides much of the functionality you listed and was requested by many educators. Hope this clarifies.

Maddie: The Classmate's Mesh networking is based upon the latest IEEE 802.11s spec. However, its not envisioned that Mesh will be used in the classrooms or school, although it could be. Its targeted more at peer interaction and in situations where there is no wireless network infrastructure in place or alternatively where one or more devices may act as a portal sharing the Internet. What you are referring to is Classroom Management software which provides much of the functionality you listed and was requested by many educators. Hope this clarifies.

Justin, do you have any further information or sources about the Mesh capabilities of the next Classmate? I've only heard different rumours but never seen any confirmed specs and your comment sounds like you've seen something like that...

Jeremy,

"For example in write I have found that write knows when something is spelled wrong but the program doesn't seem to have a spell checker ..."

I don't have an XO but on my XO emulator ( ftp://rohrmoser-engineering.de/pub/XO-LiveCD/ ) but found that in Write activity right-clicking over a misspelled word gives me a menu-like list of possible candidates and also an option to invoke the spell checker.

Justin,

"Maddie: The Classmate's Mesh networking is based upon the latest IEEE 802.11s spec."

Classmate PC currently supports only IEEE 802.11b/g. Please provde your source if that's about to change...

In case someone didn't notice, free software projects don't follow the typical commercial development/sales model.
Products are released when they are ready, not 20% done, therefore development time is longer.
When a product is almost done, it starts wiping out the market in a slow but sure way eg. apache, mozilla.
Sales is a byproduct of a useful product, and quite frankly not very important.

My point is: If a hardware mfg cannot adjust their business model to suit OLPC, I think we're better off without them.

When it comes to hardware, there is the question about reaching critical production mass, in order to lower costs.
In this case it isn't an issue since XO-1 seems to already have reached good production volumes.

I'm quite sure that most people in power recognise the need for real education, and the disadvantages of making the population reliant on lock-in technologies such as windows, msoffice, printing, undocumented hardware etc.

One Laptop decided to target ministries of education to get bulk orders for schools. Working with those agencies, even in the developed world, requires a lot of effort and patience, notes John Quelch, a professor at the Harvard Business School.

"One of the knocks against [One Laptop] could be that they focused very much at achieving a price point for the product, but didn't necessarily focus as much on developing a solution for the ministry of education for country X," says Dr. Quelch, adding that this can be a common pitfall.

"Initially, we had three or four people doing that around the globe, which is a stretch," says Bender. One Laptop is now working closely with Brightstar, the world's largest cellphone distributor, to help with global logistics.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0111/p03s04-stct.html?page=2

Brightstar, that'll help!

If Intel backs out of a market like this, you've got to assume its because they wouldn't have made enough money from it to consider it viable. These are ultra-low cost computers for Christ'sakes to be sold in impoverished countries.Where would the monetary gain have been?Intel doesn't need to promote its name anymore...everyone is hooked on Core Duos and Pentiums.Let AMD handle it.

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