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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One Laptop per Child meets the Competition

A lengthy article in the Wall Street Journal highlights the effect that the One Laptop per Child Initiative has had on the pc industry. The background if you haven't been following: OLPC is a non-profit venture started by the MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte to create laptop computers that could be sold for $100 each and put them in the hands of millions of schoolchildren in less developed countries. The program has had it's critics in the past - educators have worried that the initiative would compete with scarce dollars needed for books and classrooms in the third world, and that the pcs would simply pass through the hands of schoolchildren and be traded on the black market.

But the current article points to one of the unexpected results of the initiative... competition from mainstream vendors who do not want to miss out on this possibly lucrative market. In particular, Intel, whose chief rival AMD provides the processor for the OLPC machine, has launched its own "Classmate" laptop, and is winning support from the governments of many countries OLPC expected to sell to. In addition, education ministries in some of the target countries have been wary of the Linux OS and custom-written open source applications on the OLPC, fearing that their students will not learn the Windows and Office applications that are so prevalent in the business world. The result is that low-cost laptops are being sold to schools in many developing countries today, but surprisingly few are OLPC units.

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