a curious Yankee in Europe's court

blog about living in Europe, and Italy

OLPC’s Negroponte: Is he or isn’t he?

Posted on the May 16th, 2008

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) founder Nicholas Negroponte is taking some heat from critics who are accusing him of selling out his principles in making a deal with Microsoft, according to an ars technica article yesterday (“Former security director blasts OLPC, suggests new strategy” by Ryan Paul, May 15, 2008).

The deal, described in an article today in the New York Times, was announced yesterday and provides for Microsoft’s Windows to be offered on all OLPC’s low low cost computers (“Microsoft Joins Effort for Laptops for Children” by Steve Lohr, May 16, 2008). In reference to the agreement with Microsoft, Negroponte said, according to the article, that the government officials of the countries whose poor children OLPC is trying to reach “are much more comfortable with Windows” (as an operating system for the computers).

In another piece in ars technica, also today, Negroponte is also speaking for himself about what his primary motive was in forming the alliance with Microsoft (“OLPC and Microsoft will make Windows available on XO” by Ryan Paul, May 16, 2008):

“From the beginning, the goal of OLPC has been to use technology to transform education by bringing connectivity and constructionist learning to the poorest children throughout the world,” said OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte in a statement. “Today’s announcement, coupled with future plans for a dual boot version of the XO laptop, enhances our ability to deliver on this vision.

So another way (in my opinion) of looking at Negroponte’s decision to go with Microsoft could be that he simply is keeping his eye on the ball — meaning his goal of getting computers into the hands of the millions and millions of poor children across the globe as soon as possible. Whatever it takes.

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Is Windows losing its grip

Posted on the April 30th, 2008

An article last week in InformationWeek online highlights some gloomy numbers for recent sales of Microsoft’s Windows operating system (“Microsoft Windows Sales Plunge 24% Amid Rising Competition” by Paul McDougall, April 25, 2008):

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) on Thursday revealed that sales of licenses for its desktop Windows operating systems fell 24% in the company’s fiscal third quarter, a sign that the Redmond’s stranglehold on the PC market is weakening as new competitors emerge.

Microsoft posted revenue from all desktop versions of Windows of $4 billion for the three months ended March 31, compared with Windows sales of $5.3 billion during the same period a year earlier.

Read more here.

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Is Negroponte’s $100 laptop idea too great for its own good?

Posted on the November 25th, 2007

Nicholas Negroponte’s much praised plan to provide very low-cost laptops to poor children around the world “has been derailed, in part, by the power of his idea,” according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“A Little Laptop With Big Ambitions – How a Computer for the Poor Got Stomped by Tech Giants,” by Steve Stecklow and James Bandler, Nov 24, 2007).

The major derailers? Microsoft and Intel. Last year, Intel introduced its own cheap laptop, price tag less than $300, for developing countries, according to the article, and earlier this year in China, Microsoft’s Bill Gates announced a $3 software package that includes Windows.

Why are the technology giants doing this? Reportedly, to drive back a threat to their future profits that Negroponte’s idea represents. The $100 laptop uses Linux and other open source software rather than Windows, and it doesn’t use Intel chips, the article states. It’s an idea that the big tech companies apparently do not want to become popular.

All’s well that ends well, however, may be the final verdict. According to the WSJ article, developing countries now have several cut-price laptop models available to them, in addition to Negroponte’s star creation. Perhaps Negroponte’s thinking out of the (proprietorial) box has started something rather interesting.

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