Negroponte's $150 Billion Dollar OLPC XO "Boat"


Walter, Nicholas, and OLPC XO

Today's New York Times has a great article on the One Laptop Per Child program right on page 1. There is an online version that includes a great graphic of the OLPC Children's Machine XO.

In the article Nichols Negroponte takes exception that so much attention is focused on the Children's Machine XO and not the educational goals of the OLPC program with this choice quote:

"It’s as if people spent all of their attention focusing on Columbus’s boat and not on where he was going," he said in an interview here. "You have to remember that what this is about is education."
Reading that quote, I was struck by several failures in the analogy. The first and foremost is a total lack of information about the education process Negroponte envisions. All we have to study today is the very thin, 1,200 word, Learning Vision on the OLPC Wiki. So far, we are still ISO an implementation plan and we do not even know if there is a cultural integration plan. So we focus on what we do know, Negroponte's "boat".

Unlike Columbus, who used standard sailing ships of his day, OLPC has designed a whole new laptop, a computer that would be like designing a regatta yacht or solo round-the-world racer to reach the New World in 1492. Negroponte should be proud of his technical leap, his great innovative stride that would make Columbus jealous.

Columbus would also be jealous of Negroponte's financing. The Portuguese Italian explorer did not ask for 73% of the entire government budget nor did his ask Spain for debt financing for his exploration. And Columbus definitely did not ask for $150 Billion in start-up costs!

Start Up: $150 Billion Dollars!!

Previously, we broke the news that OLPC's goal is $30 Billion dollars per year. But looking closely at the New York Times photograph of Nicholas Negroponte and Walter Bender, you'll see a white-board in the background.

And on that white-board you'll see a very interesting diagram: Start Up: $150 Billion, Steady State: $30 Billion

OLPC is estimating start-up costs of $150 Billion dollars!

Let's put that massive number into perspective. If OLPC obtained commitments of $150 Billion dollars, they would rank as Number 8 on the Forutne 500 list, between Citicorp, $131 Billion, and General Electric, $157 Billion, in annual revenues. At $150 Billion, OLPC would be three times the size of the entire US Department of Education's budget of $56 Billion, and it would utterly dwarf its parent; MIT's endowment is a paltry $8 Billion dollars in comparison.

The $150 Billion dollar target of OLPC would even dwarf the proposed budget for US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, estimated to be $130 Billion dollars And that's the budget that Walter Bender whips out whenever he's asked to justify the astronomical fanciful hallucinatory One Laptop Per Child financial goals.

At $150 Billion dollars at start up, and $30 Billion dollars steady state, we sure better be asking about Negroponte's "boat"! The world's children do not want to find themselves far up debt creek without a paddle.

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Nice eyes! It looks to me like they are expecting to have another shipments of 500 laptops by Christmas ("500 B2") and 3500 of the B3 laptops by 24 February. The next date is obscured by the XO rabbit ears, but I note a great big question mark adjacent to it.

I saw that too, and the print edition has an even larger version of the image where you can see they hope to put $25 million towards Open Source software development.

its only too bad there isn't a dollar amount attahced to "maintenance". Seems I was right, they don't have a maitenance plan:

dude, i think the google search on your site is not configured correctly.

"Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance." - Kurt Vonnegut (from 'Hocus Pocus')

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled." - Richard Feynman (MIT '39)

Stop spreading FUD Wayan, the figures on that chalkboard have not been mentioned by any member of the project. So the responsible thing for you to have done is preface all your statements and contrived figures with a disclaimer.

Try and at least pretend to be responsible.


None other than Walter Bender himself told me personally about the $30 Billion figure. He even asked me to write it down when we met at the IADB meeting.

Walter referred to the $150 Billion start-up cost during his presentation the Silicon Valley Change Summit I attended two weeks ago but I forgot about it until I saw the white-board and re-checked my notes.

Until I see that in print from the OLPC guys, I'll take your statements with a grain of salt.

And dont forget Wayan that we have even better and cheaper hardware at our dipossal:

Colombus was not portuguese, although he did try to talk to the Portuguese king to finance his trip.