The UK’s Timesonline is running a story today showing us that, despite internal strife, questionable morals and ideals, and now, the inclusion of Windows XP on a computer that was supposed to embody all that was good in open source, OLPC remains a media darling.
The article is heavy on drama:
Microsoft, makers of most of the computer software in the world, tried to kill it with words, and Intel, maker of most computer chips, tried to kill it with dirty tricks. Of course, they don’t admit to being attempted murderers. And when I introduce you to Intel’s lovely spokesperson, Agnes Kwan, you’ll realise how far their denials go. But the truth is the two mightiest high-tech companies in the world looked on Negroponte’s philanthropic scheme and decided it had to die.
Well, of course Microsoft and Intel wouldn’t take the project sitting down. Are they the real reasons behind it’s inflated price tag and lagging orders? Or was it unrealistic expectations from Negroponte, with his millions of expected sales in the first year? Or was it simply the wrong audience? Negroponte courted Microsoft for a long time and repeatedly talked about Windows support on the XO, only to have Microsoft spokespeople say, “Sorry, not yet.”
Intel targeted communities in which some degree of infrastructure and a reasonable educational facilities already existed; Negroponte wanted everyone to have an XO, regardless of whether their basic needs were being met. Intel partnered with local OEMs to create jobs and customize their Classmates for specific regions. OLPC tried to compete with the Dells and HPs of the world.
Did Negroponte create an exploding market and inspire powerful companies to address unmet needs? You bet. Did the big boys really do him in or did the XO simply fall prey to bad management and a flawed strategy?