Intel Can't Take the (Low) Heat & Power of OLPC XO

   
   
   
   
   
intel inside olpc

Two days before Intel CEO Paul Otellini would unveil the Classmate 2 or the Intel-powered XO at the CES, Intel announced that they are quitting the OLPC board.

Intel claims that they are quitting because of Nicholas Negroponte wanting them to stop the promotion of the Classmate/Eee to education in third world countries, but I think that the real reason is that Intel does not have a good enough processor for the OLPC project to use as an alternative to the AMD Geode LX-700.

Intel has not been able to develop a processor to match the price, power consumption and performance requirements of the OLPC project. Paul Otellini could have looked like a fool at the CES if he had to unveil an Intel powered XO that was performing worse in terms of price and power consumption compared to the AMD powered one.

Intel executives probably have seen the OLPC project more as a threat than as an opportunity to their core business from day one. Intel probably wants to do whatever they can to stop the development of cheap laptop alternatives using cheaper fanless AMD processors and even ARM based processors in the future (XO-2, XO-3…), which is a direct threat to Intel's market-dominating X86 standard.

I think that Intel did not achieve or want to achieve any of these technological and pricing advancements in an Intel-powered XO and thus in fear of being ridiculed at CES with a more expensive Intel-powered XO with shorter battery life, Intel, as a last resort, decided to quit OLPC and blame it on Nicholas Negroponte.

Intel might think it is a superior technology provider and that it can simply continue to market its Intel powered education laptop against the OLPC project. Intel probably feels too uncomfortable with the prospect of supporting the development of cheap low powered laptops by being a member of the OLPC board. I think that Intel sees those cheap XO laptops as potentially becoming huge devastating disruptors to the established expensive laptop business in the developed nations.

A commercial XO could replace all laptops in the business productivity, educational, personal and entertainment sectors of the PC and laptop business, which is the reason Mary-Lou Jepsen, OLPC's previous CTO, is working on her new business to commercialise XO technology in the coming weeks and months.

olpc $100 laptop
Soon: commercial XO production?

When will we hear of the first commercial cheap laptop projects using many or most of the OLPC XO open-source technologies? Quanta's ex-CEO talked about Quanta producing a commercial version of the XO many months ago.

I think that any company with an interest in introducing low margin, large volume, low cost, low power laptops, could most probably come in, approach Mary-Lou Jepsen and the OLPC for access to using the open-source hardware and software of the project for commercial projects.

And this could lead any of WalMart, Dell, Medion-Aldi, Google, AMD, Amazon and IBM to introduce commercial $200 laptops in the near future, all running optimized and free versions of Linux.

Would the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation not be criticised for working against the work of the Red Cross to bringing vaccinations and food to starving and sick populations? Why would anyone want to compete with a non-profit open-source project like OLPC? I have been asking those questions to Intel ever since I filmed an Intel representative at the WCIT in May of 2006 when they first introduced the Classmate PC.

If anyone has a better technology to decrease the price, improve the battery life, improve the e-book screen readability, improve the flash/divx video playback performance or improve the connectivity with WiMax, cellular, satellite or other technologies, then logically that entity currently simply can contribute that new technology into the open-source development for the XO-2 by simply contacting OLPC, posting on their Wiki, making press announcements and talking about their newer, better technologies to bloggers and to the media.

I think that Intel doesn't want to share it's R&D, distribution network, design ideas and proprietary technologies with a non-profit like OLPC. I think that Intel hates the open-source hardware/software/distribution revolution.

I've also published this on my blog.

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41 Comments

Every one complains about intel and the Classmate PC. OLPC like everyone else needs its competitors. This is the driving force behind product improvment. Who cares as long as the kids get there computers. We should simply make sure that educational software is available and that it can run on the classmate as well. If the Classmate PC is some kind of lockout box, then it is a simple matter to point out that the XO is a superior product.

Why can't countries have a choice in their educational solution? Why can't they decide for themselves whether they need an XO, a Classmate, an EEE, or nothing? If the Red Cross and the Salvation Army both feed people are they working against each other? Should the Salvation Army fold to support the Red Cross? Why should Intel donate their time and resources to OLPC?

There's a reason OLPC is having trouble selling these to their primary market. Identifying/correcting the problem might be a productive exercise.

"Should the Salvation Army fold to support the Red Cross?"

This is the very first time I have seen a monopolistic giant like Intel compared to the Salvation Army.

Winter

Ok, why should Intel donate their time and resources to OLPC?

Isn't the point that children get laptops? Or does it have to be the laptop that Negroponte says they should have.

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

... But all computer buyers will have to compare the XO 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.

This leads to the final problem that has done the most to disappoint OLPC’s fans: the hubris, arrogance and occasional self-righteousness of OLPC workers. They treated all criticism as enemy fire to be deflected and quashed rather than considered and possibly taken on board. Overcoming this will be essential if the project is to succeed past its first release. Technology products improve based on user feedback. 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.

Ultimately the OLPC initiative will be remembered less for what it produced than the products it spawned. The initiative is like running the four-minute mile: no one could do it, until someone actually did it. Then many people did.

Likewise, an inexpensive laptop seemed impossible until Mr Negroponte and the OLPC group placed a stake in the ground to build a $100 laptop—which in turn spurred the industry’s biggest players to create low-cost PCs. Mr Negroponte’s vision for a $100 laptop was not the right computer, only the right price. Like many pioneers, he laid a path for others to follow.

I'm kind of surprised that everyone is focused on "the laptop" and not on "the XO". And maybe that is the entire purpose of the Intel's ClassMate project--to control the context of the argument, and keep it on "cheap laptops" versus "educational delivery systems for poor areas".

Let me put things in a different context. Anyone bought a textbook, a standard hardbound new textbook, recently? The physics standard, Halliday & Resnick, the classic books used around the world for introductory college physics, retails for $110 PER BOOK. There are 2 books. Yes, K&R is much cheaper in volume ($75 or so per book) and cheaper still used. But these two books alone are on the same order of cost as the entire XO. And the XO can store and display their contents, plus many more textbooks, PLUS include interactive training aids. Updating textbooks means buying new books. Updating eBooks and lesson aids means downloading free content.

The XO is in large part about providing a method to create and deliver that educational content. It doesn't need Amazon, it doesn't need DRM, it doesn't need UPS. With the yo-yo charger, the XO doesn't even need a power grid. Educators create the content, the mesh network delivers it to other educators and to students, and the students learn, all without having to deal with the enormous costs of regular textbooks.

The ClassMate, on the other hand, it a cheap laptop with some educational software shoved on it. The Eee is a cheap laptop, period. They can't do what the XO can do, and thus aren't valid replacements for the XO.

When the ClassMate comes with a collaborative mesh network that "just works", with valuable and cost-free educational content and the tools to create more content and share it easily, with the ability to be used in low- or no-power conditions, and comes without DRM or licensing restrictions, then it will be comparable to the XO. Until then, it is nothing more than an Intel marketing tool. Judging from the previous contents, I'd say that it is a very effective marketing tool.

This editorial is so speculative and biased my gut reaction is to reject the whole thing as trashy propaganda. No matter how much I like OLPC, I feel like Intel is the one being picked on after reading something like this.

You seem very quick to accuse Intel of every wrong doing, but it's been highly publicized that Negroponte didn't like Intel or the fact that they were encroaching on "his turf" with their Classmate PC.

Intel is an experienced manufacturer of a range of chips targeting servers, desktops, and embedded systems. To say they're bailing because they couldn't make the chip seems unlikely considering Intel is a highly successful industry leader with plenty of resources and experience in this field.

I think the Intel critics have given the "OLPC threatens Intel" idea a lot more thought than anyone who actually works, let alone makes decisions, at Intel. Who cares what processor elementary school kids are using? When they grow up and need real computers for doing real work in a business environment they won't be using OLPC laptops, they'll probably be using Dell desktops or something similar. I find it hard to believe that AMD is really going to receive enough profit from the deal to make a major player like Intel that jealous.

There ARE legitimate concerns about the XOs that OLPC is unwilling or unable to address. The Classmate addresses some of these issues. Instead of complaining about having to compete, OLPC should be working to prove and improve the merits of the OLPC.

@Jovi: The main criticism of the OLPC and XO-1 is that none of that educational content is present. Yes, it's *possible*, but it's not there. Nobody has developed or released the content that would turn the XO into a school-in-a-box which is, in my opinion, where OLPC failed. They engineered a perfect delivery platform, but that have nothing to deliver on it. Until that kind of content exists and is readily available, the Classmate will look like a much more practical solution to any government, especially the poorer ones. The targeted 3rd-world nations can't afford expensive education experiments, they need proven technology and that's what Intel offered.

OLPC had the better idea, Intel had the better sales pitch.

Ben, you have a good point but I disagree. I think Intel pulled out because the Classmate is doing well in sales and the XO not so much (compared to promised sales). In other words the threat presented by the XO has decreased and no longer warrents an interest by intel.

I would also point out that the XO is currently for young children, but does anyone think that OLPC will not make a version for older children? In addition once the education mission is met why wouldn't OLPC move onto government and business. I already use my XO for limited business now.

> To say they're bailing because they couldn't
> make the chip seems unlikely considering Intel
> is a highly successful industry leader with
> plenty of resources and experience in this
> field.

I'm not necessarilly saying Intell CANNOT make this chip, what I am saying is that Intel so far HAS NOT made this chip, only talking about it. Implementing a new chip, such as the Diamondville might have taken many months even for a large company like Intel. Cause you can't just design and start mass manufacturing a new chip in a few months even if you are the biggest chip company in the world.

Also the fact that Intel HAS NOT got a fanless X86 chip on the market today could also be that Intel DOES NOT WANT to make it. The whole point of this kind of chip using in OLPCs is that the margins to the processor manufacturer are close to none, perhaps $1 per chip or something. Actually the component manufacturer might see no profit until they might produce tens of millions of units. This kind of business model does not interest Intel, not only for itself, but as a new business model to disrupt the whole foundation of their core business model, which is to sell millions of expensive processors every year with up to 50% profit margins per processor. OLPC not only disrupts that core PC/Laptop processor market for Intel in the long term, it changes things for all the multitude of partners that also will loose their share of profits in this industry if people start to buy commercial versions of the XO laptop.

> I find it hard to believe that AMD is really
> going to receive enough profit from the deal
> to make a major player like Intel that
> jealous.

This is not only about comepting against AMD profits and AMD notoriety in the third world and in the developped world in case of mass adoption of the AMD powered XO laptop, what this is mostly about is the long term basic fact that a laptop that uses the XO laptops technologies or similar ones could replace the sales of much more expensive laptops. This market change could happen quite rapidly just as any mass manufactured new product that quickly gets mass adopted.

Charbax,

Are you a shill for OLPC? ;) Look what Walter Bender told PC World:

Regardless of which chip was actually used in Intel's development efforts, the prototype laptop didn't live up to OLPC's expectations. "They developed something that, as far as I know, is more expensive and more power-hungry than our current offering, so I'm not quite sure what the point is," Bender said.

http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140998-c,intel/article.html

"Never trust the people who stand to make a profit. They're the bad guys"

This comes down to making money. For years Intel and MicroSoft have been working to get a computer in every home, so they can sell us there wares. When they reached saturation, they decided to create more bloated operations to force us to upgrade and keep the money rolling in.
The problem , as I see it, is we got what we need, and as far as I can tell, there is no reason to have Vista over XP, or 3.8Mhz processor over 4.2Mhz. We all have powerfull work stations at home that can do the heavy lifting. What we need is a low power appliance PC that can do task spacific operations when we are away from home.
Intel and MS misread the market demand. For years they'd been talking about 'convergence', but they always saw it as an upward pressure.
Now they are scrambling to sell to a market that is looking for a low power utility device.
OLPC got there first.
Unfortunatly, the XO stand in the way of a bunch of 'rich white guys' making money.
Microsoft IS the East India Trading Company of today.
I hate to say it, but RWGs always win.

Ray, Negroponte (a RWG) does not own the developing world. OLPC may have gotten there first but they didn't know what to do when they got there, or didn't listen to their customer. Intel did. Let the countries evaluate their options and pick the best solution. Since OLPC is not giving the laptop away what difference does it make whose hardware they use? Don't the kids get educated either way?

As for IBM delivering a $200 laptop anytime soon, IBM sold off the laptop division to Chinese company Lenovo back in 2004:

http://www.news.com/IBM-sells-PC-group-to-Lenovo/
2100-1042_3-5482284.html

Very good article from Inquierer:


DEAR INTEL,

Please stop playing stupid power games with OLPC, you are only hurting those in need. It is borderline disgusting to see your little tantrums hurt those who can't defend themselves. Just shut up, put your heads down and do better.

Your quitting of OLPC in a huff is downright stupid. I have used both the Classmate and the OLPC, and from just about every way I view it, the OLPC is a clear winner. This is not to say that a lot of Intel engineers didn't do well with Classmate - and all of those I talk to believe in the mission - but you are slapping them in the face by using them as a weapon.

The OLPC project is not about raking in money or cut-throat competition, it is about getting those without connectivity an entry into the digital world. It is about empowering those without power. It is a non-profit for a reason. Didn't you get this?

...

http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/news/2008/01/04/intel-quits-olpc-huff

Schools minister touts 'one interweb per child' pork barrel:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/04/knight_broadband_schools/

The UK schools minister, Jim Knight, has decided that every child in the country absolutely must have broadband at home, and has called on technology vendors to help him make it happen.

OLPC is really on the brink of happening. Obviously the UK should invest in the OLPC project, bring an XO to every child in the UK and make sure every child that lives in a family that cannot afford a broadband connection should quality to get a 5£ broadband connection (BT would probably gladly install a cheap http://btfon.com/ router in those families homes). As well as completely blanket the country with free WiFi for OLPC children using cheap WiMax-to-WiFi converters.

Once the UK implements OLPC at home, it's only a matter of time till the UK ex-colonies all implement it also. And that the UK invest in it as a help to the developping countries, once rewards from hooking every child up to broadband and a laptop are well understood.

@Charbax

Why can't Intel be telling the truth? Other then that you just don't like them.

> As for IBM delivering a $200 laptop anytime
> soon, IBM sold off the laptop division to
> Chinese company Lenovo back in 2004

I don't know all the intricate business dealings a huge company like IBM would have in relation to Intel and Microsoft.

But I would certainly think that it would be perfectly suitable to any very large company that does not have any aggreements with Intel and Microsoft, a company like IBM which developping Linux and its own processors to compete with Intel and Microsoft, I think IBM could be interested in mass manufacturing $200 Linux laptops and simply brand them IBM in a black design or something, and use it in a part of their business to business sector. Although that would require a large investment in turning the software into something that can be absolutely reliable for businesses and optimize the hardware for that kind of use also (larger keyboard, larger screen, WPA WiFi, secure transactions, encryption and DRM and hookups to remote controlling Blade servers for example. Perhaps IBM would even be interested somehow to manufacture a power-pc or other kind of low-cost Cell processor to run a future version of the XO laptop.

This is just an example.

Google has previously built their servers without being absolutely dependant on Intel, and all of their server software and hardware is Linux and their own, they provide applications online to compete with Windows and such. So Google could do a $200 Google laptop with full access to all Google online applications and built-in access to its 700mhz WiMax network, if Google succeeds in buying that spectrum.

Wal-Mart already is the first big retailer selling $199 Linux desktops which are quite low powered using VIA chipsets. So Wal-Mart could easilly invest $20 million or more to start the customization and mass manufacturing of Wal-Mart branded $200 laptops.

You see, some large companies don't necessarilly have to be tied to the Wintel monopoly, some of those large monopolies probably also have dreams of one day challenging the Windows and Intel market-domination in the PC and laptop sectors. As soon as any of these large companies decide to try to do it, working with OLPC and Mary-Lou Jepsen would make absolute sence.

@ Simon
> Why can't Intel be telling the truth?
> Other then that you just don't like them.

Intel is simply not saying the truth, just look at their Classmate, just look at how really bad it is, how really inferior it is. Read this:

One Laptop Per Child President Fires Back At Intel
http://www.crn.com/hardware/205208838

Here's Negroponte on the subject:
"
...
Fortune: What's the biggest single reason your partnership with Intel fell apart?

Negroponte: The biggest single reason was that they were directly selling their Classmate laptop as opposed to having it be a reference design. They're not selling it in this country because they'd be killed by their biggest customers like Dell (DELL, Fortune 500). But in the developing world they are selling directly. It just set them apart from every single one of our other sponsors [which include AMD, Google, News Corp., Taiwan's Quanta Computer (which builds the XO), and Florida-based distributor Brightstar]. When Intel joined us we thought we could move toward that being a reference design more and more, and less toward them selling the Classmate itself.

But oddly it went in the other direction. And then they started using their position on the board of OLPC as a sort of credibility statement. When they disparaged the XO to other countries they said that they should know about it because they were on the board. They even had somebody go to Peru, which was a done deal for OLPC, and rant and rave to the vice minister in charge. He dutifully took copious notes and was stunned.
..."

Fortune, January 4 2009, "Negroponte on Intel's $100 laptop pullout"
( http://money.cnn.com/2008/01/04/technology/kirkpatrick_negroponte.fortune/?postversion=2008010415 )

And from today's New York Times:

"
...“They played another dirty trick in Peru,” he said. “It’s a little bit like McDonald’s competing with the World Food Program.”

In Peru, where One Laptop has begun shipping the first 40,000 PCs of a 270,000 system order, Isabelle Lama, an Intel saleswoman, tried to persuade Peru’s vice minister of education, Oscar Becerra Tresierra, that the Intel Classmate PC was a better choice for his primary school students.

Unfortunately for Intel, the vice minister is a longtime acquaintance of Mr. Negroponte and Seymour Papert, a member of the One Laptop team and an M.I.T. professor who developed the Logo computer programming language. The education minister took notes on his contacts with the Intel saleswoman and sent them to One Laptop officials. In a telephone interview Friday, Mr. Tresierra said that his government had asked Intel for a proposal for secondary-school machines, and it had responded with a proposal offering the Classmate PC for primary grades.

“We told them this is a final decision, we are running the primary-grade project with the XO,” he said. “She wasn’t very happy.”
..."

New York Times, January 5, 2009, "Intel Quits Effort to Get Computers to Children"
( http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/technology/05laptop.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ref=worldbusiness )

Reaction to Intel:

OLPC gets a little more public sympathy in this whole deal. Intel (and Microsoft) have a lot to lose ($$$) if a couple million kids learn to use (and create) software without them.

As to Intel - I am in the market for a new Windows laptop and I'm going to consider where the processor came from. They are a corporation and their goal is to make money so I’ll just hit them where it hurts.

If you’re reading this then I’ll bet you’re the 'techy friend' who helps everyone around you pick their computers. Let your friends/family/co-works know what Intel pulled. And be vocal about it.

Competition:


Yes, competition is sometimes advantageous - BUT - remember the phrase "all other things being equal." OLPC is committed to open source, low-hardware overhead, collaborative computing and all that other fine stuff. Are the OLPC and Classmate equal on those fronts?

Where has almost 20 years of WinTel marketplace dominance brought us?

OLPC vs. Intel competition would be good if ALL OTHER THINGS REMAINED EQUAL.


Education software (lack of):

@ BEN - yes, the educational software is limited from our stand point on the western side of the first world. But what can a "real" laptop do OUT OF THE BOX that the OLPC can't? What compelling education software COMES PRE-INSTALLED with Windows?

At least with OLPC the kids have the tools to program and experiment. Maybe THEY'LL make the tools. If not they can download a torrent program and download all the software they need just like students here in the west. ;-)

Regardless of which chip was actually used in Intel's development efforts, the prototype laptop didn't live up to OLPC's expectations. "They developed something that, as far as I know, is more expensive and more power-hungry than our current offering, so I'm not quite sure what the point is," Bender said.

Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,140998-c,intel/article.html
OLPC: Won't Miss Intel's 'Half-Hearted' Laptop Effort

@James-- Note: the classmate comes with linux so in theory, any software that gets developed for the XO will also run on the classmate.
That is assuming Sugar can be used easily on other machines and is not tied to XO.

Otherwise Classmate users can use all of the existing open source software.

It's about the education, folks.

Also, from the interviews, OLPC comes across like a whiner. The Media is covering this because they love this kind of story. But they ignore the main point, is the objective kids getting laptops or is it kids getting XOs?

"But they ignore the main point, is the objective kids getting laptops or is it kids getting XOs?"

The aim is to get the kids an education. The laptops, any durable laptop, would be a tool to get there.

However, the children are not getting anything. The classmates, for which Intel has reserved $1B for marketting, are not streaming into the schools either. There are very small Classmate efforts, where Linux is replaced after the sale by XP crippled (see Nigeria).

In short, upto now Intel have made a lot of diversion with their own laptop, and actively stopped XO sales (they intervened in Nigeria and Peru). But the children they supposedly are doing this for, still have no working systems.

Btw, the OLPC has been criticized to death for lacking educational software and support (which they both can deliver) by the same people who hail the Classmate that cannot deliver any of these, is more expensive, less durable and useless for primary education.

Winter

Folks,

Though I cannot vouch for the words by Oscar Becerra or Isabel Lama, there are a couple of things I want to say about the controversy in Peru regarding the alleged "intervention" by Intel to change our Ministry of Education decision.

1. Intel is working in education in Peru for a couple of years already at least. It has a teacher training program that my colleagues at the Education School tell me it's doing fine. It has an experimental implementation of Classmates at a secondary (high) school in a semi rural area outside of Lima that is working fine too, with less fanfare than OLPC but with more input from pedagogical experts. So I tend to believe Intel claims that its concern for education is real, in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility policies, of developing the bottom of the pyramid, whatever. Please note that the project is run at a High School, not an elementary one.

2. As I've told at this site before, the acquisition of XOs in Peru was a fait accompli well before the actual RfP was released. Nobody seriously believed that our government was going to buy anything else and that includes Intel in Peru. Even so, the RfP was drafted in such a way that it only made sense for OLPC to participate in the tender, so Intel did not enter a response. That's a fact.

3. The main difference between Intel and OLPC, from my point of view, is not a technical issue but different approaches to the role of computers in education. OLPC has a very specific way of thinking, one that I believed is deeply flawed; Intel has a more organic, in-the-school-with-the-teachers approach. To ask Intel to stop developing Classmates means that Intel will accept that OLPC's approach is the right one, and I think that there are people inside Intel that disagree with that. Perhaps IntelPR can say something more precise about this.

4. The whole controversy between Becerra (not a vice minister, but the official in charge of technology for schools at the Ministry, a highly trained but completely aligned with OLPC perspective professional, and very trusted by the Minister himself) and Isabel Lama sounds rather strange, but that's something for the parties themselves to clear up, if they choose to. I'll try to get clarifying statements during the week.

5. I don't have any affiliation with Intel beyond knowing some people that work there in Peru, and having had a Classmate to test and play with. My opinions are mine and are more or less the same since I started to participate in this site, and expressing my more Peru-oriented opinions at my blog. So please spare yourself any flames.

Eduardo,


I think that you have spelt out the difference between the two approaches to introducing educational improvements with the use of laptops;

the intel approach from the outset is to change nothing including the hardware/software that they are trying to introduce to bring about the status-quo, which as far as I can tell they will achieve, after all if you do not try to change either the education system or the hardware that you sell then you will achieve exactly what you set out to do, unless you are extremly bad at non-change.

OLPC is trying to change both the education system with the introduction of Inovative technology and Mass-production.

Not being rude Edy but I think that you don't get it :)

Dear Cambarne, I think I do get it. I'm not a fan of everything Intel is doing in education, but I don't think that the kind of change OLPC purports to bring to education is in any way what we need down here. I think it's a hacker's self-made illusion, based on overestimating the power of computers to change the world and underestimating the kind of problems, real problems, that education faces and have to resolve in countries like mine.

Take a look at my posts and you'll find a more detailed explanation of my point of view. But that's a completely different story, since my post tried to present another set of potential reasons for Intel to finally end its relationship with OLPC. Unlike Charbax, I don't believe in Intel being the bad guys and OLPC being saintly savers of the world's children: they have different approaches, they have different goals, and in different ways, they've made mistakes and have wrong strategies.

But most of all, they both would like to win: Intel because they like the money, and NN because he wants the fame. Both are good reasons to act the way they have acted? That's something for them to answer, and for the educated readers of this site to decide.

Eduardo,

"But most of all, they both would like to win: Intel because they like the money, and NN because he wants the fame."

Interesting observation. Of course, NN, as the funder of MIT ML and author of 'Being Digital' has been rather famous for over a decade now but even if you right about his motivation, it'd preferable to have someone become (even more) famous providing kids in those countries with an awsome and afordable educational tool than some corporation suddenly discovering there's plenty of money to be made by providing the same kids with more expensive and vastly inferior one...

Delphi, short anecdote first:

Negroponte came to Peru first about 9 o 10 years ago, invited by my university. It was an attempt to cash in on his "Being Digital" fame and the conference he was to present was pretty expensive for our country, 250 USD or whereabouts. I decided not to attend cause I felt it was wrong to spend a large sum of money of our never full pockets into bringing a guy and try to make money. We didn't make any, and it was actually a big failure. Not enough were willing to pay that much. He didn't got much media attention nor invitations to speak with our highest officials.

Last year, when he came for a Honoris Causa Ph.D. at a different university, he made all the rounds, including TV and radio interviews, no matter how awkward they are when you need an interpreter. He was a media sensation, at a very different level: no longer just a nerd or a hacker, but a philanthropist, the kind of people that wants to change the world.

That's what I meant when saying that he wants the fame...

Delphi, on your second observation: I don't think the provider of good news makes them better or worse, but the news themselves define how we receive them. I take issue with the purpose, approach and end-goals of OLPC, not with the kindness and well-meaning nature of its origins or promoters. Ditto with Intel.

Again: it doesn't matter if OLPC is well meaning, not-for-profit, open source, open access, Linux-based, innovative and cheap: what matters is how it is going to affect educational quality, systems and outcomes. That's where my concerns with OLPC lie.

Delphi,

Nobody's "providing" kids with computers, Intel and OLPC are both "selling" educational systems that include computers. Since the countries involved will be writing checks for an educational system they have to look at the whole package and decide which one is best for them. Maybe OLPC, maybe Intel, maybe something else, maybe nothing.

Eduardo,

"Negroponte came to Peru first about 9 o 10 years ago, invited by my university.
...
That's what I meant when saying that he wants the fame..."

Ahhh, egos, egos everywhere - isn't Academia a wonderful 'world' ;?


"I take issue with the purpose, approach and end-goals of OLPC, not with the kindness and well-meaning nature of its origins or promoters. Ditto with Intel."

Let's, for a time being at least, forget about OLPC and Intel, and various learning theories. I'm sure we can both agree that access to content is crucial for kids' education. In your country (Peru?), how much is the combined cost of textbooks for kids for, say, 5 years at primary school level? What about high school ? What characteristic a device to replace the textbooks and, in addition, provide access to other digital sources (eg Wikipedia) would need to have ?

"Intel and OLPC are both "selling" educational systems that include computers"

Yes, Intel for-profit and OLPC at-cost and hence with different motivation and commitment. We know that behind OLPC effort are people like Alan Kay with decades of expertise in using computers in education (and who, with his Xerox PARC colleagues in 70s, is more than just about anyone responsible for how computers are used today). And then we have Intel, a giant in chip production and...well, can't think of much Intel ever did on a big scale in education before OLPC arrived...

"Since the countries involved will be writing checks for an educational system they have to look at the whole package and decide which one is best for them."

We know what OLPC's offering is (both the price and the content) as they are very open about it. With Intel very little information is available as to what the "package" actually includes and at what price.

"Maybe OLPC, maybe Intel, maybe something else, maybe nothing."

Yes, I think you've covered all the possibilities here :). Of course, with the growing cost of textbooks and teachers on one hand and progress in technology on the other, doing "nothing" may become quite expensive.

delphi, you say
"We know what OLPC's offering is (both the price and the content) as they are very open about it. With Intel very little information is available as to what the "package" actually includes and at what price."


Who's "we"? I'd assume the people making the buying decisions read both proposals. Politicians there are as competent and honest (or not!) as the one's here.

Delphi, I don't currently have figures about costs of book distribution for public schools in Peru, but as far as I know, it's a significant number.

Then again: up until now, Peru's plans for XO deployment do not replace textbooks. Even more so, the design of OLPC education policy goes again the concept of a textbook.

Knowing how primary schoolchildren use their textbooks, as a combination book / activity notebook / plain notebook, it would be difficult to completely replace printed books with computers (note: I say difficult, not impossible) not just in monetary terms but mostly in implementation and resources. Considering the significant lack of resources, not just financial but human and technical, the decision is complex; I for one wouldn't take a stance right now since I don't have enough facts. My first thought would be to start very specific pilots in areas where the interactiveness of a computer would be better than a printed book, like science teaching; but I don't foresee a quick replacement of textbooks with computers.

But again: Delphi, the main purpose of OLPC and the main reason to buy XOs in Peru is not for replacing textbooks, is to change education. That's my issue.

Quote:
"I think that Intel hates the open-source hardware/software/distribution revolution."

Intel loves open-source software, as they see it as increasing the percent of the price of the package (working laptop/devices) that goes to hardware.

Quote:
"Intel probably wants to do whatever they can to stop the development of cheap laptop alternatives using cheaper fanless AMD processors and even ARM based processors in the future (XO-2, XO-3…), which is a direct threat to Intel's market-dominating X86 standard."

Intel wants to stop laptop chip profit margins from falling. If people realize that they can have a good computing experience with a $40 chip set, Intel will not be able to sell $300-700 chip sets.

Using and ARM based processor would be really dumb. x86 is here because it works all the time, and works with everything. The small price and performance advantages of ARM are not important when compared to pain of using a non-x86 platform.

SEE THIS:
Postscript: the threshold of inferiority
http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cpu/Intels-x86-ISA-grows-down-today-laptops-tomorrow-the-iPhoneBlackberry.ars/2

"Hannibal's Law of x86 Inevitability":
The moment an x86 processor becomes available that
you can squeeze into your implementation's design parameters
(cost, performance, features, power, thermals, etc.), then
the x86 legacy code base makes that processor the optimal
choice for your implementation.

""Hannibal's Law of x86 Inevitability":
The moment an x86 processor becomes available that
you can squeeze into your implementation's design parameters
(cost, performance, features, power, thermals, etc.), then
the x86 legacy code base makes that processor the optimal
choice for your implementation."

Your view has been shared by Linus:
http://www.crn.com/it-channel/18838176
(there is a better story, but I can't find the link)

Winter

ARM is the way to get the price down below $50 for the laptop. By definition, the ARM platform is cheaper because it requires less components and uses less power.

So I expect the XO-2 or XO-3 will use an ARM based platform.

"So I expect the XO-2 or XO-3 will use an ARM based platform."

I think you are missing the point.

The x86 byte code is so well understood that you simply have the best software and hardware tools for that architecture. This is not to say the x86 architecture is so great, but everyone nowadays knows how to code around the quircks.

But if some architecture would be able to unseat x86, it would be ARM, at least according to Linus Torvalds:

"It was a lot of fun to run another architecture (I ran with alpha as my main architecture way back then, for a few years, so it wasn't the first time either), but commodity CPUs is where it is at. The only thing that I think can really ever displace the x86 architecture would come from below, i.e., if something makes us not use x86 as our main ISA in a decade, I think it would be ARM, thanks to the mobile device market."
http://www.efytimes.com/efytimes/21160/news.htm

But the question is whether switching to ARM would be worth the trouble on the software side. Those experienced in coding for ARM most likely have little experience in graphical interfaces, while those who have, dont know how to code for arm. But that might be just my ignorance.

Winter

Well to make programming simpler is the reason the first XO uses X86 based processor. But as soon as the main 20 XO apps are ported to ARM, and especially that there is a smooth running browser running on ARM, it'll make no sence to stay on X86.

I think ARM will come and replace X86 much quicker than some people think. Perhaps not in XO-2 coming by the end of this year, but around XO-3 next year, I think there will be $50 XOs using Texas Instruments, Marvell or other ARM based super low cost and super low power platforms.

And software to run on ARM will be even more optimized.

For making things even more optimized and low power, there will also be a DSP chip to do the multimedia applications, so the ARM will be the basic minimum required for loading the most basic and effecient versions of apps, and any intensive multimedia task will be taken care of by the DSP chip. I think even HD video playback and VGA camcorder mode can be done by a cheap and lower power DSP.

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