The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project is not having an easy time of its efforts to bring low-cost computing to the masses. Costs are up and it is struggling to get the scale necessary to lower costs and improve its momentum. OLPC is therefore offering a new program to bring in dollars and pump out laptops (and remove shortages).
Like the Give 1 Get 1 initiative, the Foundation's new philanthropic initiative appears to be aimed at building scale for the program. Originally envisioned to cost $100 each, the OLPC's manufacturing costs have since climbed to $188, and the project is having a hard time getting countries to commit to buying the laptops.
The OLPC Project is also looking at more competition than was envisioned when the project first got off the ground. Last week, Asus officially launched its 7", Linux-running Eee laptop at a $299 price point, and Intel's Classmate PC project offers another alternative to the OLPC XO.
The article goes on to quote OLPC's founder, Nicholas Negroponte, as chastening Intel for selling its Classmate PC at an alleged loss. But why? If the point is to bring low-cost computing to the masses, why does it matter whether Intel makes or loses money on its machines, if it sees a corporate interest in distributing machines at low cost? I can understand Negroponte's ire from a personal pride perspective, but not from the perspective of philanthropy.
We should be grateful for any and all competition that drives down prices for developing nations and expands access to machines. It really doesn't matter who does the work, so long as it gets done.
We need to keep an eye on the end goal. How we get there or, rather, who takes us there is somewhat less important.