Everyone from Nicholas Negroponte to Microsoft to Intel wants to help the poor kids in emerging economies by giving them a laptop, a phone or some frankendevice. No one seems to ask the question if the kids actually need it, especially when food and water should […]

Everyone from Nicholas Negroponte to Microsoft to Intel wants to help the poor kids in emerging economies by giving them a laptop, a phone or some frankendevice. No one seems to ask the question if the kids actually need it, especially when food and water should be higher on the priority list.

As we wrote earlier, “What is a kid who goes to a school with rampant teacher absenteeism, no infrastructure to speak of –like desks, fans or electricity to run those fans –going to do with a laptop?”

However noble these ambitions be, these are skewed elitist plans… but I don’t want to get political here. What is amusing is that how each one of the promoters is dissing each other – Negroponte recently complained about Intel being Intel on 60 Minutes, and accused Intel of undermining his one laptop per child plan with the $200-Classmate device. (Not that I think Intel is without blame .)

AMD, which is providing chips to the OLPC initiative, didn’t waste any time sending out a press alert pointing fingers at Intel.

We view Negroponte’s comments and observations as “Intel being Intel” and agree that they serve as another point supporting our claims of Intel’s abusive anti-trust practices for which they were found guilty of in Japan. As you know, AMD filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Intel in U.S. federal court. The European Union is also likely to share the conclusions of their exhaustive investigation of Intel’s business practices in the very near future as well.

Easy to over look his anger, but Intel’s device seems to cost more, so can’t be undermining OLPC. Secondly, since this seems to be a mission of charity (and not a play for Nobel Peace Prize), Negroponte should be happy that others are willing to follow his lead, and get more of these frankendevices into the hands of more and more kids.

Don’t blame me for thinking – what a bunch of crybabies!

By Om Malik

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  1. They’re awfully territorial for such nice, charitable guys, aren’t they?

    I never thought I would live to see the processor wars between Intel and AMD escalate to a dispute over whose super-low-end product for the emerging markets was the most heartfelt.

    You’re right on the money to say projects like these tend to overlook the bigger needs that people in Africa confront on a daily basis in favor of a technology-will-save-us-all world view. Why is it, do you think, that so many of us are so quick to latch onto the cool, high-tech answer to social problems and so freaked out by the idea of tackling issues of hunger, access to water or basic social stability? Is it about control? An acknowledgment of the limits of philanthropy?

    Either way, it’s always nice to see the saints of the tech world in a knock-down drag-out. Popcorn, anyone?

  2. It is really funny to see a haughty MIT professor get all pouty about Intel treading on his charity territory.

    Elitist you say? Did you catch the line about how much Negroponte travels? He made sure to mention it a few times in the 60 Minutes interview. For us less fortunate and literally more grounded, we can feel smug thinking about all that wasted jet fuel.

  3. It’s very easy to say that Africans need clean water and reliable electricity supplies more than they need cheap laptops but that’s to assume that all of Africa is exactly the same. Sure, some countries are still dealing with abject poverty but some areas are a bit better off and the best way for them to keep rising upwards is by educating their children.

  4. 1 laptop per child = get ready for a heck of a lot more spam!

  5. You totally miss the point Om Malik.

    Intel is dumping their price, they are selling the Classmate with a loss, targeting only the same governments that are in talks with OLPC. This is illegal, it’s Intel trying to build a monopoly, not Intel competing on technology, quality or price of the devices.

    If Intel wants to be charitable, they should invest heavilly in the OLPC research and development. Nothing prevents Intel from developping an Intel based OLPC laptop.

    The truth is Intel does not want anyone to succeed in making cheap laptops. Cause Intel and Microsoft earn much too much money selling expensive, slow, bloated laptops, they really wouldn’t like to see a cheap, Linux-running, AMD sponsored alternative become successfull.

  6. You don’t need a desk, a fan, or even electricity to go to school. Maybe holding a laptop in their hand will inspire, give confidence, and enable them to better not only themselves but their community.

  7. disappointed Monday, May 21, 2007

    I’m disappointed to see that you are that much of a fool, Om.

    Barret’s job is to maximise profit for Intel shareholders. This requires him to do everything in his power to maintain and extend the wintel monopoly.

    You know that.

    Don’t just take a contrary view for the sake of website traffic. You are a high profile writer and have a responsibility to think about what you post.

  8. Sara,

    where did you go to school, and where did you grow up – because if you knew about rest of the world’s reality then you would know that those are important issues.

    i am sorry to break it to you and everyone else, rest of the world doesn’t think of “laptop” as a confidence booster.

  9. disappointed,

    did you read the post: they are both delusional projects who don’t take into account the ground reality of the world.

    it is easy to talk about these things from air conditined offices in boston and san jose.

    my trying to keep it real is a page view play, while notable professor whining on national TV. excuse me.

  10. I too saw the 60 Minutes piece. The fact is that Negraponte’s passion is technology not infrastrature in 2nd & 3rd world countries. While clearly there are many countries around the world that lack even running water, just because this is a huge basic need doesn’t mean that a hard and fast rule must be that infrastructure must be laid down first before others can dare to dream bigger. IF OLPC had from the onset struck a deal with both Intel and AMD to split this global chip opportunity, they wouldn’t have Intel doing dumping and chasing OLPC like a minnow waiting to pounce on food. Intel should follow Google’s “Don’t be evil” mantra and should figure out a way that as a for-profit company, it can collaborate with the non-profit OLPC and not go for the jugular. Just my 2 cents. ;-)


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