Intel Leaves OLPC Board Over Classmate Sales

   
   
   
   
   
intel inside olpc

Fresh from the Wall Street Journal, One Laptop Per Child and Intel have just hit divorce court:

Intel says it no longer will support One Laptop Per Child, and has resigned from the board over the nonprofit's demand that it stop selling its Classmate laptop and other laptops in the developing world. Intel says it has canceled plans for an Intel-based OLPC laptop.
Now am I the only one who saw that coming since July?

Did OLPC really think it was going to stop Intel for selling Classmate PC's when it's AMD-powered device was making inroads into the developing world? And to think Intel would do so for anyone, for or non-profit, goes against every stock option it ever granted.

And did OLPC think it was going to convince Intel to stop "other laptops" (the Asus Eee PC?) from appearing? That goes against the hyper-competitive nature of the entire Silicon Valley, and even OLPC's original mission statement.

Sadly, this spat has ended hopes for a Diamondville XO Laptop, which could have born the best of both worlds: Intel focused on selling laptops, OLPC focused on changing education.

But at least now the Intel conspiracy theories will come roaring back to life in the comments section, right. about. now.

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21 Comments

You don't think this has anything to do with the lawsuit in Nigeria....do you??

I guess this terminates the disparagement clause also, and I can't wait to hear all the official criticizing the OLPC representatives will be able to do in these coming days. Now all the dirty tactics employed by Intel in the last 6 months can be unveiled, I can't wait to hear what Nicholas Negroponte and Walter Bender will have to say about this.

And I have got lots of things to say which I hope Wayan will post to the blog.

It doesn't take a conspiracy theory to explain the actions of a company whose (unofficial) motto is "only the paranoid survive" (title of Andy Grove's autobiography). Welcome to the NFL!

Intel is in fact doing a more honorable thing in publicly breaking with OLPC over policy differences than it might have done otherwise - use insider knowledge obtained on the board to subtly undermine OLPC's efforts in favor of their own, for instance.

Go to your corners, await the bell, then come out swinging, gentlemen! And may the thickest head win! Business is not a tea party, and you can't expect others to yield to you just because you were first. The howling horde you see running as if to join you will overrun you when it arrives.

I have not yet seen the full text of the WSJ article but I expect to have more to say when I read details of Negroponte's apparent attempt to have Intel suppress competition.

Wild guess:
Intel scraped Diamondville. Couldn't produce a low-cost, fanless chip to replace the AMD Geode and make money on it. No reason to be on the board. Left and spread FUD.

Rodfather, I agree on that guess. I posted my comment to Wayan on this which I hope he will post soon.

I think that Intel cannot or does not want to compete on pricing and power consumption at that kind of performance. That would conflict with the kind of interpretation of Moore's Law that Intel has been practicing for the last 15 years. Which is to sell faster computers at the same price every year, instead of selling cheaper computers at the same performance every year.

@Charbax
Well, Intel does have Menlow and Moorestown mobile platform on their roadmap which significantly lowers the power drain. It just seemed odd that Diamondville came out of nowhere just to replace the fanless Geode.
It's like if Microsoft were to stop what they are doing and make Vista work on low-performance PC's.
That sounds like too much work and resources to pull off. So why bother. Might as well continue putting old generation Pentium-M and Celeron's in Classmates and Asus Eee PC's and make a profit. Then gamble on Silverthorne processors for MID's.

Well I think that Nicholas Negroponte played the only cards he had available to him very well indeed, Keep your friends close but keep your enemies even closer. Now Intel can stop pretending to be the charitable endevour, "It's all for the kids" and has to come up with a new angle for why it want to sell laptops;

1) It's because the classmate has a better screen desgin - er no!

2) It's because the classmate runs better, more secure software,- er no!

3) We are more tailored to childrens needs - no!

4) The classmate is a more durable laptop - er no!

5) The classmate is water repellent, drop proof to 5 feet etc etc - er no!

... dam .. er

6) But we can currently run windows on the classmate thats a sales pitch if ever I heared on - oh yes thats true!

I wonder if there were any anti-trust considerations that fed into the decision to leave the board? Intel and OLPC both manufacture and sell laptops with some overlap in their customer groups.

I'm pretty sure I've read that the Justice Department has taken a look at Intel on unrelated matters. Why leave an obvious cause of action, like sitting on the board of directors of a competitor, lying around for the Justice Department to run with?

Just out of curiosity, are we bashing Intel because we like OLPC or is there objective proof to support the "Classmate is inferior" mantra?

Maybe someone should have told that to the developing nations who chose to buy it. Then again, maybe it wouldn't have helped.

Imagine this, you've saved up your money for 3 years to buy a new car and when you go to the dealership they offer you the choice between a shiny new BMW and slightly cheaper, *supposedly* more fuel-efficient, weird-looking car from a small volunteer-run company that you've never heard of. I think most people would buy the BMW. With some thing as new and untested as the OLPC, it's hard to feel secure in choosing to spend nearly your entire educational budget on an experiment which is clearly still in the beta stages of development.

I want OLPC to work as much as the next geek, but OLPC has to prove itself to these countries. That likely means running pilots in 1st world countries where governments can afford to gamble funding on education experiments. And we can all see that many developing nations follow the example of larger richer nations. They're perfectly justified in saying "If it works, why don't you use it in your own schools!"


This is an unusually cynical position for me to post. However I can understand where Intel is coming from. They're a business with a competing product and shareholders to consider. They have spend a substantial amount of money developing and marketing their Classmate PCs, why should they drop all that now? Especially since it looks like the developing world prefers their product. It's one thing for OLPC to ask for collaboration, it's quite different for them to ask Intel to forgo profit for something as intangible and unprofitable as "the betterment of humankind".

If you go over to http://www.classmatepc.com/index.html you'll see why they're successful. They listen to their customer.

You only want 100? They can do that.
Do you want to print documents? They can do that.
Do you want training/maintenance/support? They can do that.
Do you want something compatible with the rest of the world? They can do that.
Do you want spreadsheets? They can do that.

OLPC keeps telling the customer why they shouldn't want/don't need those things.

Sure they can't be read in sunlight and charged by cow-power but I think Intel is focusing on a different market. They seem to be offering a school-based system, not one where the laptop has to belong to the child. Also, this is a market that could afford to implement the solution.

Maddie,

Sadly that site is a little outdated now. Its "Latest News"?

"Intel joins One Laptop Per Child initiative: Intel and One LapTop Per Child agree to work together to benefit emerging markets."

Ben wrote:

"Just out of curiosity, are we bashing Intel because we like OLPC or is there objective proof to support the 'Classmate is inferior' mantra?"

Ben, you have gone right to the heart of the monster that kills open-source nitiatives every day: a total, sickening lack of integrity when questioning the project.

Has ANYONE ever questioned Negroponte's decision to get in bed with Intel?

If Intel is so bad and has done so much damage, why did Negroponte take their money just 2 months after making serious accusations against Intel on national tv?

Has anyone EVER questioned why Negroponte has failed to produce sales?

I'll tell you why:

Because he promised very DIFFRENT things from those he actually delivered. The basic promise made by Negroponte, the one that attracted everyone's attention (including mine!) was this:

1. Fully-functional (meaning with the same features of a regular, off-the-shelf laptop)
2. Crank power generator
3. Battery life measured in days, not hours
4. Constructivist learning environment
5. $100 price tag, to go down as more were produced
6. Revolutionary display

Well, three years later, we have a beta product, far from fully functional without the much-vaunted power generator, with battery life measured in hours not days, no signs of any plans to explain where the "constructivism" is and a price that is double the original. About the only thing faithful to the original offer is the display.

Has anyone EVER openly considered the possibility that the lack of orders has a lot to do with the XO not being the product advertised by Negroponte?

Now, I'm NOT apologizing for Intel - they are out to make money and will do ANYTHING to keep their business going, including undermining ANYONE's efforts to introduce competing products.

My point is that, before we go around blindly blaming Intel, Microsoft, the Nigerian government, Hiltler and Elvis, perhaps we should take a moment to give the OLPC Project an honest look and ask:

Where did it go wrong?

Elvis? Now, let's not bring The King into this, Irvin. He's innocent unless bananas and peanut butter is involved.

But you're right to ask why Negroponte let Intel on its Board to being with. My take - OLPC caved.

Accepting Intel was not the much-reported victory for OLPC. Since when does letting your competitor have a seat on your controlling body signify success? Would we think Intel the champ if AMD had a seat on its Board?

The only explanation I can come up with is that either:

1. Negroponte had the belief that Intel wouldn't have any influence on him, and maybe that says something about the OLPC Borad

2. Negroponte hoped that with the enticement of a Intel-powered XO-2, Intel would help sell an AMD-powered XO-1. If so, he way underestimated the quarterly-level sales metrics that Intel (and its stockholders) live by.

"But you're right to ask why Negroponte let Intel on its Board to being with. My take - OLPC caved."

Wayan, you know them much better than I do. But what about the fact that a public fight between OLPC and Intel being bad for both? Both could do without the bad publicity.

Intel getting more infamous for trying to kill a children's educational charity. OLPC losing credibillity with its clients for fighting one of the world's strongest monopolies.

Getting together would have (temporably) benefitted both.

Why the spat now?

I speculate that after the OLPC found a credible sales channel (G1G1, S American orders) that was actually successful made them at the same time more independend from and less attractive to Intel.

Maybe Intel also finally decided that they could get as many of Mary-Lou's screens inside as outside of the board?

Winter

Do you want to print documents? They can do that. - Or else what would you do when someone in a newsgroup tells you to RTFM, I see your point.
Do you want training/maintenance/support? They can do that. - have you ever tried to get an answer for a support question for open source software?
Do you want something compatible with the rest of the world? They can do that. - hmm you got me there!
Do you want spreadsheets? They can do that.

"Just out of curiosity, are we bashing Intel because we like OLPC or is there objective proof to support the 'Classmate is inferior' mantra?"

- Just out of curiosity, is there objective proof to support the 'Classmate is superiour' mantra?

1. Fully-functional (meaning with the same features of a regular, off-the-shelf laptop)
2. Crank power generator
3. Battery life measured in days, not hours
4. Constructivist learning environment
5. $100 price tag, to go down as more were produced
6. Revolutionary display

- All of the above were Goals I believe;

- "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. ~T.S. Eliot"

"Do you want something compatible with the rest of the world? They can do that."

The rest of the world can read ODF and RTF, don't they? OO.o is freely available for any platform.

I don't see the $100 Classmate price tag comming until it will be irrelevant.

"Do you want training/maintenance/support? They can do that. - have you ever tried to get an answer for a support question for open source software?"

Actually, have you ever tried closed source support?
Open Source training can be found everywhere. You only need to be able to read.

A question for those with a G1G1 laptop. Can you print? I only hear that it is impossible from those who did think the OLPC is evil from the start.

Winter

Winter asked:

"A question for those with a G1G1 laptop. Can you print?"

http://olpcnews.com/forum/index.php?topic=281.0

....


This guy tried to solve the problem (I can only imagine non-techie people trying to fix it on their own!)

http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/page/InsideSystemStorage?entry=printing_on_xo_laptop_with

"Now the problem is that there is no way to print stuff from any of the Sugar activities."


A truly egregious lack of common sense by the OLPC people. Things like printing, browser bookmarks, file systems, GUI (no need for users to go to terminal to do simple stuff like installing software), music playback, etc., should NOT be major issues today.

"Just out of curiosity, is there objective proof to support the 'Classmate is superiour' mantra?"

I never said the Classmate was better. I was simply trying to question automatic bashing of any project that isn't OLPC. And there is the fact that Intel has managed to convince more countries to buy it's product than Negroponte has so maybe they have a reasonably competitive product.

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

That leads to the third problem. Since the project launched in 2005, commercial rivals have emerged: Intel’s “Classmate” at around $250; Acer’s laptop at $350; Everex PCs with Zonbu software at around $280; Asustek Computer’s Asus Eee at under $400; and an Indian competitor, Novatium Solutions, which created a basic "NetPC" for around $80. There are many more.

OLPC initially treated all these activities as threats rather than competitors. 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 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.

@cambarne

Better technology and UI hasn't helped Apple OSX beat the pants off of Windows -- just because the OLPC might be better doesn't mean Intel won't win many markets because of more marketing, better support and training packages, loss-leading offers of other Intel services/systems and/or package deals, soft (and not-so-soft) bribery, and simple familiarity -- I've lost many a battle for Open Source just because people couldn't get their heads around the concept of not-Windows. We didn't even get to the you-don't-have-to-pay-for-the-software, or the more subversive, the-source-code-is-open aspects. Familiar, even if it's bad, is preferred by many people.

I'm not a major corporate buyer, but have been part of selecting more than 100 computers over the past 20 years. I've gone for INTEL processors in every case where it was possible. They seemed reasonably responsible and we the original 8080 guys, and the leaders.

From what I've seen Intel behavior relative to the _not for profit XO / OLPC_ effort, I am repelled at the company. I intend to give them a chance to respond, but it's occurring to me that I may have bought my last machine with an Intel processor. I wonder if anyone feels the same way.

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