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TED: Negroponte Says OLPC Started Netbook Craze; Will Open-Source Its Hardware

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Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop for Child, today at the TED Conference claimed credit for instigating the rise of netbooks. He said we can thank OLPC, which he proposed three years ago, for estimates that netbooks will be half the market in 12 months.

But he decried the influence for-profit companies have had on OLPC, saying commercial markets have competed with the project mercilessly. And OLPC’s hardiness and specialization for children have not been replicated in netbooks, whereas they are some of the most important aspects of the product. OLPC has half a million devices in use today, and they are even being used by kids to teach their parents how to read and write.

So what Negroponte is going to do is open source the OLPC hardware, he said, and invite competitors to copy it. His hope is that will result in 5 to 6 million OLPC-type laptops per month going to children three years from now.

15 Responses to “TED: Negroponte Says OLPC Started Netbook Craze; Will Open-Source Its Hardware”

  1. raybann

    To dismiss as baloney a visionary effort like the OLPC is just foolish.
    To further accuse Mr.Negroponte of intellectual dishonesty, well, that just might be actionable
    and it seems like this interweb thingy has a long long memory.
    Who knows who just might get a hit on a blog comment when they google yer stats
    after a job interview
    or before.
    I am writing this on an OLPC laptop.
    It is too small for an adult hand but I like the machine for web browsing
    The machine is able to do much in music and logic and programming
    But I am disappointed with the absence of a good word processor
    I may be wrong but I believe Mr Negroponte announced his participation
    more than three years ago.
    I have known of this project and followed its progress for years
    and Mr. Negroponte’s name has been associated with it from the beginning.
    This is something that I am extremely pleased is starting to happen
    while I am still alive.
    I want to see what happens when all these people start connecting
    in ways and at speeds that are shocking!
    Hit publish. And baby, it happens!
    Each blogger needs to learn to weigh their words
    and to sift them for pomposities like baloney
    It’s funny.

    CosmosLaundry Journal

  2. Negroponte is a visionary who has achieved much, much more than the pathetic trolls who criticize him ever will achieve. OLPC is not a failure… true, Intel et al have tried to quash it… but they have changed themselves in ways they probably didn’t anticipate. And that is the power of OLPC: even its foes have beenaffected by it. The decision to open-source the hardware design may seem like an admission of failure… to those unable to grasp the concept of open source. That’s fine. Let them misunderstand; it’s probably better for the success of the project if they do. OLPC is not for them – it’s for the billions of people the profit-seekers could care less about. Let them stuff their wallets with worthless dollars, let them hide in their gated community cages, fearing the rest of the world. They are irrelevant. They will be less relevant as time goes by. Their only power is to cause confusion, but they have swallowed their own poison. A new day is dawning, the corporate vampires won’t be able to withstand the light.

  3. Negroponte is an intellectual fraud that stood up on a podium and offered a simplistic “feel good” solution to techies — “Give them a computer and the world will change.”

    Well, baloney. IF you paid $200 for an unsupported OLPC, how many children could have received medicine or treated netting to prevent malaria?

    If you go back and take a look at the original specifications he promised on the OLPC and the original goals he casually threw around for producing it — before he started whining about Intel and Microsoft not bowing into his PR blackmail — he didn’t hit the design goal of price and didn’t hit the goal of shipping “millions” of units per year.

    But he gets a free pass because people have this dilusion that a cheap laptop will somehow make the harder problems of food, water, basic health care go away, much less combat illiteracy.

    Don’t blame Intel for Negroponte’s failure. Blame Negoponte’s ego for not seriously thinking through the design issues of actually MAKING HARDWARE, the support issues to deliver Internet and power to people who can barely afford clean water and power, and a simplistic model of throwing cheap laptops out there without a more holistic approach to deployment.

    $200 could buy a lot of children a lot of good. Or one child something pretty.

  4. @ Charbax…I totally agree!

    Negroponte has been laughed at and ridiculed, even for this great effort.

    Tomorrow it will be exactly three years that I posted this comment on where the author ridiculed Negroponte’s vision.

    My comment:

    Now, this article indicates a very short-sighted and incomplete observation.

    I agree, the poor need food. But food doesn’t help people 5 years ahead or to build a future. Food -as the primary need of human beings- is a natural necessacity, for you, for me and for the poor. So is medicine. We need it, but will we get it? In the west people like you and I will get whatever we want, need or desire. But even in many parts of America and Europe there are many poor, hungry or sick people.

    It is a great thing and very commendable that MIT is going ahead with this project. The $100 computer is not a toy, it has a future in a kids hand. It is very humanitarian. Yet, I read you insulting the likes of Negroponte. Take a look in the mirror next time, before you comment (sneer) on other people’s intention.

    People like you, who seem to have a very short-sighted and common visions, will never see the value of a poor kid being educated and given a somewhat equal chance to ride on the information wave.

    Posted by Neal S. Lachman | February 8, 2006, 11:56 AM

  5. Negroponte should indeed get some credit here in terms of the netbook market. The first ASUS Eee PC (the 701) and its customized, simple Linux interface was targeted directly for kids. Eee stands for Easy to Use, Easy to Work, Easy to Play. It’s now a brand that’s now synonymous with current netbooks. While Eee PCs likely aren’t found in emerging nations, the concept of a small, highly portable computer that can handle basic web and application needs is the same. ASUS simply discovered that there’s more of a market for such a device than people realized.

  6. OLPC XO-1 is in the hands of over 1 million children in third world countries. It could grow to several millions this year. Do you have any idea what that represents? It’s over 10 thousand schools in Uruguay, Peru, Mexico, Birmingham, Haiti, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Rwanda, Nepal, Ethiopia, Oceania, Paraguay, Cambodia, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Lebanon, Ghana, South Africa, Thailand, India, Niue, Iraq, each of those countries have up to hundreds of thousands of OLPC XO-1 as of today and each of their politicians trying to find funds to fund millions more. In all from large city schools to thousands and thousands of small schools in villages.

    I can assure you that none of those countries have children walking around with Asus Eee computers, even less any Intel powered classmate computer or anything like that.

    Intel chose to compete against OLPC instead of working with OLPC, which resulted in an Intel dominated for-profit first world commercial distribution of Intel Netbooks competing against a non-profit University developed, Government sponsored which targets mainly the poor third world countries, which is the whole point of OLPC, to bridge the digital divide.

    The only point of Intel so far is to provide a secondary laptop for rich adults in rich countries. That is why Intel and Microsoft carefully limits screen size, RAM, graphics, storage, disk drives and other features on netbooks. It is a careful monopolistic an desperate attempt by Intel to try to keep control on the bulk of the laptop market while the inevitable eventually happens, Intel and Microsoft will loose their monopolistic grip on the market. The business as usual in Silicon Valley is finished. Intel executives could see it coming, but as is their fiduciary obligation, they try to stay in monopolistic control on the laptop market for as long as they could. Even if they can delay the inevitable non-profit laptop using free open source software and hardware revolution, even if Intel can delay that just another couple years. For Intel execs it is worth delaying the reach of technology to poor people that desperately need it in their under developed societies.

    I think what Intel has done is criminal, cause billions of children are growing older without a fair society around them, without a fair access to knowledge and forcing them to live in pollution and chaos. Intel and Microsoft execs though live in their fiduciary bubble in the Silicon Valley, and all they have been thinking about is doing everything they could to keep their control on profits and profit margins of the market. Though the market solves nothing other than the rate in which their filthy pocketbooks can expand with more money and power.

  7. @ Mike

    FY I, this article will hit home when you realize it is not always the winner that created or institutionalized an industry:

    Also, the goal of what we call now the Internet was totally different from what it is now. An idea, an innovation matures and even metamorphoses into something completely different. It happens.

    Negroponte did leave his mark in the PC industry. That others are/have been more successful has to do with the fact that Negroponte was an outside, he had to fight behemoths like MS and Intel. His brilliance and vision could not help him fight the war, let alone win a battle.

  8. Mike Cerm

    For all the reasons Negroponte acknowledges, the OLPC had absolutely nothing to do with the netbook craze. The OLPC had very specific goals. When ASUS launched the 7″ EeePC, their goals were totally different. Since then, then while dropping in price, netbooks have become more powerful and more capable. Netbooks have now edging out the regular laptop market. That wasn’t the point of OLPC.

    While noble in it’s intentions, the OLPC model has basically failed. If the project can be saved at all, it will be by learning what has made netbooks successful, and growing from there.