Intel Stoops To Conquer . . .

Intel and OLPC have apparently agreed to kiss and make up.

Perhaps this is just a technical glitch, but the website for the Classmate PC
(Intel’s answer to OLPC) is no longer available.

What does this mean? I think the following says it all (emphasis ours):

“Will Swope, vice president of corporate affairs at Intel, told TG Daily that the collaboration with OLPC is a result of a conversation between Nicholas Negroponte and Intel CEO Paul Otellini. . . . It does not come as a surprise that Intel wants to supply hardware to the OLPC: “Of course we want the design win,” Swope said. “If we are not in this product generation, then we want to be in the next one.” Intel will also try to work with the OLPC to expand the OLPC product line to offer more than just one product in the future. This means that Intel will be competing with AMD for hardware supplies, which is an interesting scenario as both AMD and Intel will have members on the OLPC board.

Translation into English: Intel will be selling Silverthornes in the “premier” OLPC line in a couple years, while AMD will be left with the “original” low-end for a while.

What will happen in the long-run? Intel is focusing its attentions and resources on technology meant for this kind of market. This should give it a big advantage over AMD, which has more pressing priorities like survival in the near-term to devote much time and money to this.

Some lefties will no doubt knee-jerk and say that OLPC has sold its soul to evil, capitalist Intel, but this time I think they’ll end up being right. Not that this is a bad thing.

For all practical purposes, OLPC has agreed to sell Intel’s rather different idea of a low-cost laptop under its brand, effectively establishing selling a (future) Classmate PC line. That will be a more Windows/mainstream-oriented (and priced) machine than the current XO-1.

Such machines will end up being provided to children in middle- and upper-income countries, while XO-1 successors will be sold elsewhere.

The two visions will compete, and I think in the long-run, the Intel vision will win out, simply because it is a more realistic, sustainable, and even ethical approach than pushing sub-PCs on to the very poor as a quick-fix substitute for an educational system.

The real problem with the XO-1 is not its tech specs or who provides what CPU, but rather the simple fact that computers need an infrastructure, and very poor countries are usually very bad at sustaining infrastructure.

You have to repair computers, you have to have a system for providing software and support; it’s not a completely independent box. Unfortunately, the OLPC people have been remarkably unconcerned, even flippant, about the humdrum but essential tasks of maintenance. That’s the road to long-term failure.

In the long run, the grand, glorious dream will wither away and be replaced by something far more modest but sustainable and successful.


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