Nov 27, 2007

OLPC threat for Intel, Microsoft

When I am reading an article like this one in WSJ that talks about how Intel and Microsoft have found themselves threatened by Negroponte's OLPC, I can't stop but shudder at utter stupidity and pervasive greed that totally obscures any understanding of what OLPC project means.

I do not work for OLPC, I have no affiliation to the project other than occasional contribution to the UI translation effort.  What has been refreshingly awesome in the idea of this little machine was not the price tag.  It was not even the idea of providing it to so many children in impoverished countries.  It was the fact that it can help so many people (children) understand what computing, information, technology are about.

All that Intel and Microsoft seem to be able to see there is competition — Intel because OLPC uses AMD chip, while Microsoft, naturally, because OLPC doe not run Windows.

Bot these companies, as well as a number of governments that are hesitant to jump the OLPC bandwagon, are missing the whole point of why it is done that way. Why offering a striped-down Windows XP or Vista that can run on a similar machine (be it Classmate PC or EEE PC or any other entrant into low-cost/small form factor laptop market) is not the same by a long mile as what Sugar provides a kid with on OLPC.

What a child gets when handed the "$100 laptop" is not just hardware and OS. He gets a whole slew of little applications that allow him or her to start learning things right there and then. He or she can be creative and doodle or can access any number of web sites and find useful information to put onto a class report (and he also is safeguarded with a number of options there not to end up on a warez or porno sites). The great EToys environment that comes with Squeak that is included on OLPC allow a child to learn what programming is about in a long-forgotten way that. It all comes tuned and made for a child not in a generically heartless and usability poor Redmond way.

An old analogy comes to mind:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

What Intel and Microsoft are doing is the former — they are very much eager to give (or more like sell) lots of fish, while OLPC project addresses the latter — it teaches how fish, meat, veggies and anything else can be made.

Update

This is just great: a Nigerian company (but it happens to be based in US) has filed a suit in Lagos claiming that XO infringes on LANCOR's patents. Can anyone trace this back to Redmond, I wonder?

A good /. comment on the same.

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