OLPC will fork

The latest OLPC news has left me befuddled and annoyed. Negroponte seems to have become intoxicated off the Redmond "get-high".. What is perhaps more disturbing is that it appears that OLPC leadership and many of its core developers is clearly split over the issue of allowing an XP port to the XO platform. Betrayal seems to be the often used word to describe the feelings of some of the people who have either worked with the project or have witnessed the momentum behind this effort. Though, I did not take advantage of the G1G1 campaign (I will likely grab an orginal XO from eBay), I also feel somewhat foolish. I have always been a supporter of the effort to support emerging nations (and our own struggling communities) ability to expose children to computing.

Negroponte seems to believe the most important aspect is getting "technology into the hands" of as many children as possible. The underlying OS is immaterial. Lots of people disagree. There are many reasons why the OLPC effort is in serious trouble.

  • Product Support
  • Deployment Strategies
  • Economies of Scale

However, let's focus on the goodness that OLPC has spawned. Prior to the OLPC project, very few vendors thought it was a good idea to build sub-compact, low-cost, high value notebook computers. This conventional wisdom was encouraged largely by the defacto M$ tribute that vendors must pay to include the proprietary OS. The cost of this tax is passed onto the consumer. So, the vendors were happy to retain the status quo and fostered the symbiotic relationship.

Enter OLPC, and its new partnerships with hardware vendors. The promise of several developing nations purchasing these machines made the proposition intriguing. Coupled with the fact the hardware would not be encumbered with software licenses and various impeding software patents. Now you have a serious game changer.

At the beginning of the project, Negroponte stated that the effort was about empowerment and access to knowledge. He agreed that Linux provided a significant advantage due to the ability of the kernel to take advantage of the optimized low power consumption architecture. I suppose what changed his mind is that he began to believe that the non-profit OLPC project was in the technology business, and not the goodwill business. It was never about providing children an avenue for children to learn Windows or M$ applications.

As stated earlier, the OLPC project spawned an interest in low-cost, sub-compact machines. ASUS eeePC and Intel ClassmatePC. I am certain there will be many others to follow.

Some have argued that F/OSS does not guarantee that children will be more interested in computing or programming. Well time will tell. One thing F/OSS does not foster is laziness. There is always something new to learn. Affordable and accessible computing is a mantra that makes sense to me. Obviously, Negroponte had a different agenda. It really is a shame. The only way to defeat the inevitable implosion is to fork the project. Essentially, that is one of the four freedoms of Open Source. I still have faith that people will make the right choice.

  • No OLPC in NOLA?
  • What will become of the OLPC Project?
  • One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)
  • Ohio Linux Fest 2009
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    This page contains a single entry by AG published on May 17, 2008 7:18 PM.

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