OLPC vs. the world

'60 Minutes' looks at One Laptop Per Child initiative.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman

Sunday night's 60 Minutes, usually a show at the tail end of the technology bell curve, weighed in on a surprisingly relevant topic--Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child initiative. If you've been following the MIT professor's story, you'll know he set out several years ago to develop a cheap laptop for children in third-world countries, featuring a low-power AMD chip, flash memory instead of a traditional hard drive, and even built-in Wi-Fi and a Webcam.

Closer to $175 than the originally projected $100, the systems are being rolled out in small test markets. We actually got some hands-on time with one a couple of months ago at the Game Developers Conference, and it felt surprisingly sturdy for a subnotebook, although its toylike qualities can't be denied.

The drama of last night's 60 Minutes profile came from the nonprofit OLPC's corporate competition--namely the low-cost Classmate PC from Intel--with a similar rugged design and carrying handle. "Intel should be ashamed of itself," Negroponte told 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl. "It's just--it's just shameless." While Intel Chairman Craig Barrett told her, "We're not trying to drive him out of business. We're trying to bring capability to young people."

You can watch the 60 Minutes segment on the CBS Web site, and also check out Tom Krazit's take over at News.com.