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OLPC's Negroponte blasts Intel's low-cost PC initiative

Nick Negroponte says that Intel is "dumping" cheap PCs on emerging markets in hopes of sabotaging his own effort to bring low-cost PCs to the world.

Apparently, this world isn't big enough for two low-cost PC projects.

Nick Negroponte, founder and leader of the One Laptop Per Child project, told 60 Minutes Sunday night that he would have 3 million orders for the $100 laptop (at this point, really $175) if not for Intel's "shameless" business practices.

"Intel has hurt the mission enormously," Negroponte said. How? By apparently distributing marketing materials questioning the features of the One Laptop (it's really called the XO) and by giving away an Intel-designed laptop called the Classmate PC to poor nations around the world.

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Intel Chairman Craig Barrett made no apologies for his company's behaivor. Barrett has spent much of his time since ceding the CEO post to Paul Otellini traveling the world evangelizing the cause of bringing PCs to the world's poor. "There are lots of opportunities for us to work together," Barrett said on the long-running television program. "That's why when you say this is competition, we're tying to drive him out of business: this is crazy."

Negroponte thinks the real problem is that the One Laptop uses a chip from Advanced Micro Devices, and that Intel wants to lock in the next generation of PC customers. While there's probably something to that, surely there's more than one way to bring low-cost PCs to the rest of the world.

AMD tried its own Personal Internet Communicator, and while that product failed to take off, it did help stimulate the conversation. Another group called Project Inkwell is investigating ways to hook up classrooms around the world. And, perhaps a company or organization in one of those poor emerging nations might actually figure out how to design a low-cost PC for its own people, rather than letting outsiders--no matter what their motivation--dictate what type of technology they should use.