Have you counted how many "cheap computers", "low-price laptops" and similar devices have we heard about in the last 12-15 months? Probably around a dozen.
And I'm sure there are many more coming, including aggressive sales strategies. Somehow this is not unexpected and probably not entirely dangerous for the One Laptop Per Child project.
Back in December 2006 I wrote a post about what I termed as "The Negroponte Effect". It is based on two by-products of the OLPC initiative:
- OLPC is expanding the idea of the universal access to the ICTs as something possible and near in time.
- OLPC promotes economic competition and the development of new models to support the developing world.
Access to computers is increasingly related with national development, particularly after the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) included ICT as one key element to achieve these goals. Take any developing nation and you'll see how there's an increasing interest in getting technology for their people. Here at OLPCNews we have read about the Bolivarian Computers that Venezuela is planning to build. Algeria has the OUSRATIC plan (1 PC per family) and something similar does Tunisia .
That's why Nicholas Negroponte himself has said that "because the numbers are so large, they [Intel] look at those numbers and they say, 'If we're not in those, we're toast.'" Yet, that is actually truth not only for Intel but also for the whole industry: desktop computers manufacturers, educational software designers (especially those built on Windows), technical support, producers of servers, printers and peripherals, and so forth.
Everybody in this industry is desperately chasing the dream of getting a slice of 'next billion customers'. And our beloved white and green little laptop is in the middle of this battle. So, am I surprised about new competitors? Sure I am not.
Yet, there are literally millions of new users demanding ICT devices every month. But only a fraction of them are potential XO users. I guess the question is not whether those competitors can harm the project but whether the promising OLPC initiative can actually be fully deployed in at least a couple of developing nations. This is something still to be seen.