Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Microblog: OLPC Death of a Dream

Well, the pie-in-the-sky One Laptop Per Child program has called it quits after a tumultuous 3 years. The OLPC was hailed as the "$100 laptop" and had the noble and grand vision of providing accessible, easy-to-use hardware to people in developing countries.

There were a lot of great ideas - some of which actually came to pass. In fact, Nicholas Negroponte, founder of OLPC said at the TED Conference today that it was actually OLPC that helped to spark interest in the netbook class of portable computers. He even got up on stage and threw laptops and netbooks around - saying that if you tried to use them underwater or in a dusty African village - "they won’t work."

Ummmm.... yeah. Very few things do - unless they're military grade.

But, in the end, I think it was market forces that really pulled the grand vision back to earth. They never actually got to scale up the production - and because of that, they've had money problems almost from day one. They've produced over a half million units - and they're working in the field.

So, their new idea is to just open source everything and hope that another company (with much deeper pockets) will pick up where they left off and through the economies of scale - be producing (in Mr. Negroponte's words) "5 to 6 million machines, per month, in three years time."

Hmmm... OK - I hope so. However as a my friend Jan Aleman is fond of saying "Hope is NOT a strategy."

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