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OLPC Downsizes Half of Its Staff, Cuts Sugar

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the austerity-a-side-effect-of-reality dept.

Portables 379

One Laptop Per Chewbacca writes "Nicholas Negroponte, the leader of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, has announced that the organization will be laying off half of its staff, cutting salaries of the remaining employees, and ending its involvement in Sugar development. The organization has had serious problems with production and deployment and has been fragmented by ideological debates as Negroponte shifts the agenda away from software freedom and towards Windows. Ars Technica concludes: 'The OLPC project's extreme dependence on economy of scale has proven to be a fatal error. The organization was not able to secure the large bulk orders that it had originally anticipated and fell short of meeting its target $100 per unit price. The worldwide economic slowdown has made it even more difficult for OLPC to find developing countries that have cash to spare on education technology.'"

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I'm downsizing, too (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364763)

but not on this fp! eat my asshole!

Re:I'm downsizing, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365141)

Congratulations on your FP! Let's all give this AC a big round of applause!

Re:I'm downsizing, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365203)

Tell us more, have you consumed nuts or MSG recently?

Be Warned (4, Insightful)

gringer (252588) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364797)

If you're changing your original goals (I'm thinking particularly about Sugar here) mid-way through, you'll crash faster.

Re:Be Warned (4, Informative)

gringer (252588) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364815)

Then again, it looks like they're not dropping Sugar completely, just "Passing on the development of the Sugar Operating System to the community."

Wrecked to be wrecked. (0, Troll)

Erris (531066) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365127)

XP was an extra cost forced on them when they had already be sabotaged. The demand for OLPC was there before they started the project. A few well placed bribes was all it took to cancel orders for Intel Classmates and other crap not up to the task. Sticking to the mission is always the best answer. It's astounding that OLPC leadership did not realize that they could not agree their way out of being destroyed. The more resources they allocated to dealing with XP and Intel, the fewer resources they had for OLPC and Sugar.

Some helpful corruption links:

As for cover ups, it's surprising to see a Slashdot article about OLPC that does not mention Intel or M$ malice, something that's been documented here in the past.

Talk about wrecked ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365457)

-1 Informative. Typical damage control is in effect.

Re:Wrecked to be wrecked. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26366043)

What a surprise, Twitter, every link but one is from Roy Shit-for-Wit's lame attack blog. You don't do yourself any favours by consorting with someone known for exaggeration and misrepresentation. Or is it bad for him to be associated with you? It's tough to call.

WRT the link from the only reputable source, it's a blog, mostly opinion, and derides Microsoft for acting like every other company. What a load of bullshit.

Re:Wrecked to be wrecked. (2, Insightful)

FishWithAHammer (957772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26366159)

BoycottNovell is an amazing organization.

That is, amazing in how insane they are. They are the epitome of the knee-jerk crowd that taints open source. They and DefectiveByDesign (hello, Genius Bar Invasion bullshit) are the two that come to mind when I think of people doing a lot to hurt the causes they say they're for.

Re:Be Warned (0, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364843)

VA Linux changed their goals half a dozen times.

Re:Be Warned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364943)

VA Linux changed their goals half a dozen times.

Who?

Re:Be Warned (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365037)

VA Linux changed their goals half a dozen times.

Who?

VA Linux [letmegoogl...foryou.com] . They own Slashdot, Sourceforge, etc. They started out as a Linux PC hardware vendor, which they no longer do. Now they make money from the ads on Slashdot and related sites, and sell SourceForge Enterprise Edition software to big companies.

Re:Be Warned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365193)

Love the letmegooglethatforyou.com link! I can see that getting a lot of use :-)

Re:Be Warned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365629)

Ohh... you mean, Sourceforge, Inc.

Re:Be Warned (4, Insightful)

ChatHuant (801522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365827)

Now they make money from the ads on Slashdot and related sites, and sell SourceForge Enterprise Edition software to big companies.

I think SourceForge, Inc. (previously VA Linux Systems, nee VA Research) has actually sold [wikipedia.org] the rights to the software (which software, in a funny example of "do as I say, not as I do", they had switched to a proprietary license). SourceForge, Inc. also runs the sourceforge.net code repository [sourceforge.net] . Given the vocal advocacy on their web properties (like Slashdot or Linux.com), I find it ironic that sourceforge.net uses another proprietary license [sourceforge.net] for their rights to the contents you put there.

Re:Be Warned (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365097)

Sure, but they changed their name twice for each time they changed their goals, so it all worked out.

What OLPC really needs is a name change, preferably to some sort of nonsensical word. That always seems to turn companies around.

Re:Be Warned (1)

darth dickinson (169021) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365373)

I suggest "SnarkNavel Enterprises, Inc."

Re:Be Warned (0)

s6135 (1367437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365699)

Whose navel? :)

Re:Be Warned (4, Insightful)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365013)

Maybe the problem is that their goals are wacky. Here is a blurb from the "Development of Generation 2.0" technology initiative page:

Other detailed goals include:

  • Dual 16x9 proportioned sunlight-readable touch screens
  • Keyboard and touchpad both replaced by touch screens
  • Physically smaller than XO-1; size and weight more like a book
  • 1 watt power consumption
  • Price of US$75 to large educational buyers

I get the feeling OLPC is a bunch of well-intentioned, high-level talking heads.

Re:Be Warned (4, Insightful)

iocat (572367) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365927)

The problem with OLPC is that is was designed by academics, who can never let "good enough" get in the way of "visionary perfection," so you end up with a lot of worthless spces, like a paperback book sized dual-16:9 touchscreen spec that consumes no power and producers potable water as a byproduct, instead of just outsourcing the entire production to Asus to make a cheaper version of the 10-inch EEEPC.

I'm not saying academics don't produce anything worthwhile, but there's a reason they're in the thinking business, and not in the computer hardware production business.

Good example -- OLPC has the worst keyboard in history (although it did make me long for the days of my Timex/Sinclair). I can see the academics thinking "oh those dirty, ignorant, third-world children need a keyboard that can never break," ignoring the fact that a clamshell device, even in the third world, will keep the keyboard pretty clean, that you can find off the shelf keyboards cheaper, and that even poor people in the third world can understand that they need to not rub dirty into a computer keyboard, since they may be poor, but you know, poor != stupid.

Re:Be Warned (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365977)

I don't really see a problem with the XO-2 techspec, I mean thats the goal for the future, its not the device that should be out next month and the XO-1 already comes quite close to those goals anyway.

Re:Be Warned (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365815)

If you're changing your original goals (I'm thinking particularly about Sugar here) mid-way through, you'll crash faster.

Exactly right. The problem here is that OLPC has developed type 2 diabetes, so they have to be really careful about their Sugar intake.

Thanks folks, I'll be here all night. Try the fish.

Netbooks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364803)

Think the recent fad of netbooks has anything to do with it?

Re:Netbooks (1)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364831)

Actually, I think that it is the failed business model. I predicted this failure when they started the idea.

How hard was *that* prediction... (4, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365221)

They only wanted to sell the fine things to people who couldn't afford them. The people who could? They could buy one, if they paid for two...

The correct way to handle it would be to charge $250 domestically and put them next to the game consoles in Wal*Mart, so lower middle-class parents can buy them for their kids. 1/5 of 10 million sales would pay for a hell of a lot more "donated" models than half of a hundred fifty thousand models.

Besides, the whole "it's good for you, but we're not letting our own kids near 'em" is pretty hard to swallow and smacks of colonialism.

Re:How hard was *that* prediction... (3, Interesting)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365649)

You are right. I have said since the beginning that they should sell off th OLPC at $250, and use the profits to offset the costs of machines going to third world countries. They could even have gotten rid of the special power supply for the versions sold in North America and Europe. Saved a couple of more $ per unit.

That said, I think we all owe the a debt of gratitude for showing others that there was and still is demand for a small, cheep, low power laptop.

Re:Netbooks (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365275)

I predicted this failure when they started the idea.

A lot of people predicted this failure. Including OLPC's competitors.

Re:Netbooks (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365651)

Even if they had a good business model, the safer bet is to bet on the failure of the business. Don't hurt yourself patting yourself on the back - it's not worth the effort.

Figures. (1)

gmac63 (12603) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364825)

Its just a bad time overall.

Re:Figures. (4, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365133)

Its just a bad time overall.

I think their business plan was fundamentally flawed, and deciding to go with Windows (meaning extra cost) when they were having trouble getting down to the price point they wanted even without it was just the final nail in the coffin.

They, like many other companies these days, are using the poor economy as a convenient excuse for dumping salary, but they were likely doomed anyway.

Thanks Intel/Microsoft (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364839)

Congratulations, you crushed a competitor and, at the same time, destroyed hope for millions of needy people.

Even if you disagree that third world governments buying these laptops would have done anything, at least it might have gotten them interested in greater investment in education.. it might have gotten them thinking that more of the first world actually gives a shit.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364917)

it might have gotten them thinking that more of the first world actually gives a shit.

We don't.

The chance to become producers, not consumers. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364931)

Even though I thought it was a stupid idea, it did have one redeeming point. It would have turned a small segment of the population in those countries into producers instead of keeping them as consumers.

When they decided to support Windows, that killed the only positive point I could see in it. They would be kept as consumers.

Re:The chance to become producers, not consumers. (4, Interesting)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365393)

That doesn't make sense. Unless the OLPC hardware and software were being made by the people in the countries buying them, they would be consumers no matter what OS was preinstalled. 99.99% of open source developers are in first world countries, so that wouldn't really tip the balance.

If the OLPC project were really serious about using open source software to help the third world, it would start hiring some of the people there to work on open source projects.

Re:The chance to become producers, not consumers. (2, Insightful)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365507)

If the OLPC project were really serious about using open source software to help the third world, it would start hiring some of the people there to work on open source projects.

That's simply absurd.

Re:The chance to become producers, not consumers. (2, Insightful)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#26366139)

That depends on if you think the people who would receive OLPC would all be incapable of modifying the code.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (3, Insightful)

apoc.famine (621563) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364969)

It wasn't just them. The captain of this ship is the one with his hands on the wheel. The original plan did not include a great deal of what ended up in the final project. While outside forces were at work, blame there lies squarely on the leadership of the project.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365101)

Was a time when I would happily defend Nicholas Negroponte.. that time has passed. His ego and incompetence had a lot to do with the failure of this project.. but that's to be expected.. he's an academic.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (2, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365137)

but that's to be expected.. he's an academic.

Wow, you have a massive chip on your shoulder.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365209)

And taking into consideration his aversion to academics, he's probably dumb as well.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (3, Informative)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365229)

No kidding. Academics started Sun and Cisco, to name just the first two successful tech companies that spring to mind.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365847)

On February 12, 1982 Vinod Khosla, Andy Bechtolsheim, and Scott McNealy, all Stanford graduate students, founded Sun Microsystems.

Len Bosack and Sandy Lerner, a married couple that worked in computer operations staff at Stanford University, later joined by Richard Troiano, founded cisco Systems in 1984.

Neither Graduate students, nor "computer operations staff" are not academics.

Get a clue.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365235)

Yeah, cause it's rude to expect an academic to not understand the realities of business.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (3, Interesting)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365467)

Normally I'd complain that you haven't read the grand parent post, I find your reply astounding. You make only reference to his ego and incompetence and then explain that ayaw as him being an academic. You made no mention of business at all. In other words, you have a hugh chip just sitting there...

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365573)

Sorry, I was obviously assuming that my audience was already aware of how NN fucked up. He assumed Microsoft, Intel and all the politicians wouldn't play dirty. Then he whined about how dirty they were playing. They just ignored him, so he had a little hissy fit, then started making concessions. Game over. All of which could have been avoided if he had shown a little restraint and gotten buy-in from the big players.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365837)

Sorry, I was obviously assuming that my audience was already aware of how NN fucked up. He assumed Microsoft, Intel and all the politicians wouldn't play dirty. Then he whined about how dirty they were playing. They just ignored him, so he had a little hissy fit, then started making concessions. Game over. All of which could have been avoided if he had shown a little restraint and gotten buy-in from the big players.

I agree. But that has nothing to do with him being an academic. Incompetent egomaniacs (still not sure if he is excatly that) come from all walks of life.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (3, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365887)

Being naive about the low down tactics of business and politics has everything to do with him being an academic.

What's your fucking problem?

As a MSFT/Intel Shareholder (0)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365099)

I am a shareholder of MSFT and Intel. If selling more WinTel solutions causes the stock prices of MSFT and Intel to go up that is a GoodThing(TM).

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (4, Insightful)

timholman (71886) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365181)

Congratulations, you crushed a competitor and, at the same time, destroyed hope for millions of needy people.

You're giving Intel and Microsoft way too much credit. It was ASUS that destroyed the OLPC, by creating the netbook market when it released the first Eee PC. ASUS is already on its third generation of the Eee, not to mention the tooth-and-nail competition from Dell and HP, and the OLPC has barely gotten out of the starting gate. The OLPC couldn't possibly compete, even if the world economy hadn't tanked.

I firmly believe you're going to see plenty of sub-$100 Linux laptops being sold in the Third World within the next 3 years, but they're going to be coming from a half-dozen Chinese manufacturers fighting like mad to outsell each other, not the OLPC project. Microsoft and Intel won't be able to do much to stop that trend. The OLPC was a visionary idea, but like so many other visionary ideas it has been swept aside by its successors.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365295)

No. Laptops that work well in full sunlight and are rugged and low power are not being built by anyone, and won't be. All these requirements require compromises that won't sell well in the first world.. and that's always the target audience. This is why trickle down economics doesn't work.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (2, Insightful)

timholman (71886) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365615)

No. Laptops that work well in full sunlight and are rugged and low power are not being built by anyone, and won't be.

Sure they will, but only if it's economical to do so. Those are all desirable qualities in any laptop computer - why would anyone not want them? But buyers choose price over features most of the time.

The problem is this - any manufacturing process that could create an OLPC for $100 could just as easily create a bare-bones Linux laptop without the OLPC's bells and whistles for $50 or less. If you're a Third World consumer, what are you going to choose - an OLPC, or a netbook for half the price that is "good enough"? And the netbooks are going to get much better, much faster than the OLPC ever could.

This is why trickle down economics doesn't work.

This statement makes no sense. The entire OLPC concept was the result of "trickle down" economics. It would never have been possible without the manufacturing processes developed for First World computing, which have subsequently caused better and better technology to trickle down to lower price points.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365751)

Those are all desirable qualities in any laptop computer - why would anyone not want them?

What part of this is hard for you to understand? Cause it seems to be pretty obvious to everyone else.

Sunlight readable screen. Westerners don't use laptops in sunlight. For the few that do, they expect to pay a premium.

Rugged. Panasonic sells the "Toughbook" which has as much uptake as Volvo does outside Europe. Why? Cause to make something tough you, pretty much, have to make it ugly. And, again, you don't really need it in the western work, so you expect to pay a premium.

Low power. Saving power and being green is a luxury that westerners are paying lip service to at the moment. The requirements to fill that need are a long long long way away from the requirements of a child living in a third world country that has no power infrastructure.

I'd also like to add that one of the greatest features of the OLPC was the ad-hoc mesh network. There is exactly zero desire for this in the US as 1. infrastructure already exists 2. people don't like working together because it inevitably means that freeloaders get on, and Americans have an irrational hatred of freeloaders 3. there are entrenched interests who will actively try to prevent it for their own benefit.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (3, Insightful)

multisync (218450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365449)

You're giving Intel and Microsoft way too much credit. It was ASUS that destroyed the OLPC, by creating the netbook market when it released the first Eee PC ... Microsoft and Intel won't be able to do much to stop that trend

The eee pcs use an Intel Atom processor, and most models can be purchased with XP for an operating system. So I doubt either Microsoft or Intel would care to stop the trend.

By the way, they're sweet little machines. I purchased one for our CFO to take with him while he travels (they fit nicely on the little trays on the back of the seats in airplanes) and we were so impressed I bought a couple more to use for training/loaner purposes. (They only come with XP home, so their usefulness is somewhat limited in an Active Directory environment).

I also picked up one for my girlfriend for Christmas, which allowed me to retire an old iBook that's been nothing but trouble. The keyboard is quite usable (you even get a left and right ctrl key!) but it takes some getting used to the position of the right shift key.

I think Asus has hit the nail square on the head with the eee pc. It's no replacement for a full-blown laptop if that's what you need, but if you have a family member who just wants a small, light, esthetically-pleasing computer to surf the web and play a little Solitaire they're perfect.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (5, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365893)

You're giving Intel and Microsoft way too much credit. It was ASUS that destroyed the OLPC, by creating the netbook market when it released the first Eee PC.

I'm not so sure about that. I think the OLPC failed for political, not economic reasons. The lobbying efforts of both Microsoft and Intel did have some influence on the outcome, but more and more these days I get the feeling that the biggest reason was sheer ineptitude among the project's organisers.

Let's break these points out a little:

The OLPC pricing model was contingent on economies of scale, and the only parties with enough money to bring to the table were national governments. That logic is sound, as far as it goes. But Negroponte and co. completely ignored just how hard it is to build political will, especially where new, iconoclastic ideas are concerned.

Politicians, especially in developing countries, live from one day to the next. In many cases, their only mandate is to accumulate as much wealth as they can before their government falls, or they fall out of favour. OLPC holds no benefit for them whatsoever.

Those politicians who are competent (and who consider that governing is actually part of the job description) need to have some degree of confidence that what they're proposing isn't going to blow up in their face and leave them looking like fools. As far as I can tell, Negroponte's negotiators relied only on their own stature and authority within the geek world to reassure them. That was - how shall I say? - a little presumptuous.

One example: I have been working in the developing world for a while. In the course of it, I've developed a few very valuable contacts in certain countries in the region where I work. When I was informed that OLPC wanted to roll out in one of them, I was very enthusiastic. This particular country was perfectly suited for such a project: The population isn't too big, the current government is genuinely committed to development, and they've just come into a sizeable chunk of money from newly developed petroleum deposits.

I happened to have contacts at the very core of this particular government. It's not inconceivable that I could have arranged a few very useful conversations. So I wrote to the envoy OLPC had sent, and offered to help.

No reply.

I waited a few weeks more, and tried again. No reply.

After three separate tries, I worked the back channel and was informed by a rather embarrassed individual that the OLPC envoy thought I might cramp his style, so without even checking whether his fears were justified, he cut me cold.

In contrast to this amateurish approach, Microsoft and Intel spend a good deal of time and money building alliances within various governments. They come across as reasonable and fair, often negotiating steeply discounted licensing schemes, and bestowing a good deal of largesse while they're at it.

They're ruthless competitors, that's true, but they don't walk around with blood dripping from their fangs. When you meet with them, they're attentive, caring and sympathetic to your situation. Their job, after all, is to sell more product, and to ensure that nobody else's products look like a reasonable alternative.

Contrast that with some guy appearing from nowhere, expecting to be treated like someone important simply because the letters M-I-T follow their name, and who haven't really a clue about how to effectively navigate the corridors of power. Guess who wins?

Last point: Asus isn't competing with the OLPC. They're building a consumer device and using retail channels to deliver it. They'll sell them in numbers, I don't doubt, but the plain fact is that the devices are not nearly as appropriate for use in rural areas as the OLPC is.

In fairness to OLPC, they're victims as much of being original as anything else. But their strategy is failing because of implementation, not design.

Re:Thanks Intel/Microsoft (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365913)

"they're going to be coming from a half-dozen Chinese manufacturers fighting like mad to outsell each other"

I think this hits an important point. We all forgot how important competition is simply because this project embraced OSS, which overwhelmed everyone with excitement.

When you depend on a single company, no matter how well-intentioned and hard-working they are, you are putting too many of your eggs in one basket. The new generation of cheap, small laptops will use OSS too. If the market exists for educational laptops, at least one company will fill that niche, building off the ideas of several other companies. The OLPC wasn't successful because it had no benchmark to work against. ASUS came in with an idea of what was possible and what people wanted, and provided it. Negroponte promised everything and learned the hard way that unexpected compromises hurt a lot.

Yeah, blame it on them (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365217)

Rather then working with Intel and Microsoft, "you" give them the finger. Way to go, champs. Don't piss off big companies who are willing to help you and promote your stuff.

In the end though, Intel and Microsoft got the last laugh, didn't they?

I hear that... (1)

person* const matt (220605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364841)

Netcraft is about to confirm something.

Good (0, Flamebait)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364857)

It was a failure before it started.

Re:Good (1)

DMoylan (65079) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365215)

nosense, the netbook market exists because of this machine.

till this appeared laptops were huge expensive pieces of hardware. now look at the market.

Re:Good (1)

baxissimo (135512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365627)

I think it more likely that shrinking component sizes and costs made such small and light notebooks inevitable.
There's always a market for well-made smaller/faster/lighter gizmos. The most impressive thing about the original OLPC announcements was the price point they promised, and they weren't able to deliver on that. But come on. Smaller lighter laptops was bound to happen at some point. And I'll go further to make this bold prediction: even smaller and even lighter and even cheaper computers will be available in the future! Just you wait!

Re:Good (1)

DMoylan (65079) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365817)

there was a market for smaller devices. the ultra small laptops though were very expensive. sony toshiba and a few others and never made in great numbers.

asus saw the demand/interest when ever the olpc was discussed and made the eeepc. last christmas in ireland it was more popular than the wii and much harder to get. even now getting our hands on asus eeepcs or acer aspire ones is hard as they go out of stock as soon as they come in. we usually sell 1-2 laptops to customers over christmas for personal use (it's not a market we're interested in a we supply accounting software and services) we shifted 10 or so netbooks. windows _and_ linux. some are for kids some are for business use. whenever i take out my current netbook i get bombarded with questions on price/battery life/os/speed. it changed the publics idea of what a laptop is.

now all the manufacturers are jumping on the market. didn't sony say that they weren't going to make a netbook?

the olpc has changed the market completely even if it was a failure. i'm waiting for mine to arrive so i might be a little biased. :-)

Letterman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364863)

Let's see... A **TOY** computer for the same price as a real one... CUT ME A SLICE OF THAT!

why away from linux (1)

luther349 (645380) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364869)

its been proven linux notebooks sell. look at the eepc and acer one.

Re:why away from linux (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365067)

I didn't RTFA (I know, surprise surprise), but TFS only mentioned it was cutting development of Sugar not Linux itself. Maybe they're going to something already better developed, like XUbuntu or Xandros or something.

better headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364879)

OLPC trims fat, cuts sugar

If they had... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364889)

If they had just shoved it in Dixons for GBP£199.95 in the first place, I'm sure they would have been down to $100 by now. All this ideology is just bollocks.

Re:If they had... (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365131)

Eh why the do you suggest we pay $304 when the get one give one offer was $200?

I know! (4, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364935)

They can save money by switching from Windows to Linux!

I've heard (1)

courtjester801 (1415457) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364989)

That they can also save money by switching to Geico.

Re:I've heard (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365227)

Don't believe everything you hear from a talking gecko. My browser has a gecko, and it's putting falsehoods on my screen all the time.

They should have started selling it to American (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364963)

schools. Particularly grade schools and middle schools. A laptop that doesn't need maintenance. They launched that initiative 1 year back, but it was too little too late. They were actually quite hostile toward selling it in America or developed world.

Now, I don't believe computers are all that great in the classroom, but if they wanted economies of scale, it would make more sense to sell to the rich, gadget-happy country first to build up production and also legitimacy in the eyes of 3rd worlders. I imagine if MIT pushed it, some Massachusetts area schools might have adopted. Then the OLPC project could have put that on their resume as well.

No one got fired for buying Microsoft/IBM is true, and if the competitor is a relatively unknown, untested entity, doubly so. I think the move to Windows just killed it though, since it didn't differentiate OLPC laptop from any other to the casual observer.

Re:They should have started selling it to American (1)

LiENUS (207736) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365155)

They were selling to American schools.

Re:They should have started selling it to American (4, Insightful)

SoCalChris (573049) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365195)

Now, I don't believe computers are all that great in the classroom, but if they wanted economies of scale, it would make more sense to sell to the rich, gadget-happy country first to build up production and also legitimacy in the eyes of 3rd worlders.

That's something that I never understood. Their business plan depended on economies of scale, yet they refused to sell it to people who wanted to buy them, and had the cash.

I understand that they wanted to save the units for the needy, but the needy were never able to afford them because they never got the economy of scale working for them.

Re:They should have started selling it to American (3, Funny)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365559)

"No one got fired for buying Microsoft/IBM"

One of the happiest moments of my life was when I was given the opportunity to fire an NT admin, you insensitive clod! :p

(obl) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364991)

First you get the sugar, then you get the power, then you get the women

Yes, windos killed it (5, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364997)

I'm certain that the submitter is correct: Allowing windos in killed the project.

Why? Because projects like this rely on the goodwill of volunteers. That comes from ideology, in a neutral sense, i.e. from people believing in something. Very few people believe in windos. It has millions of users, but few "believers". On the other hand, Linux has a very high percentage of believers among its users, it's easy to find volunteers who will contribute for free, or support the distribution channels, convince their local leaders, and so on.

There are things that money can not buy. You can build a religion on money (see Scientology), but not a crusade.

Re:Yes, windos killed it (1)

byolinux (535260) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365091)

From what I heard... Microsoft purchased some laptops from the project, and then put Windows on them themselves, just like you or I could... and then distributed those to see how it worked out. In total around 250 machines.

"believers" are part of the problem! (1, Troll)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365337)

Spare me the (often incompetent) enthusiasm of youth.

You shouldn't 'believe' in an OS or license like a God. Nobody should.

I believe Windows based computers make up a large market of potential customers.

I believe knowing and using multiple operating systems is a valuable thing. I believe you can't be master of all things. Find a balance.

In the end computers are just tools.

Do you 'believe' in SnapOn, Mac or Matco?

I believe in Haas! Death to Jet tools.

Re:"believers" are part of the problem! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365929)

You shouldn't 'believe' in an OS or license like a God.

You shouldn't believe in a God like a God, either.

Re:Yes, windos killed it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365521)

Quite... the OLPC was the one outstanding project of all the netbooks. Why? Was it the price... no. Was it the specs... no. It was the vision of a system not tied to big tech (esp software) vendors. A system that would kick start tech industries in poor countries by allowing them access to technology was designed to be modified - as opposed to the PCs that will be shipped now, with TPMs, Windows and completely locked down... a drug habit... a system that will kick stary nothing but a dependency.

Re:Yes, windos killed it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26366113)

please. outside of a bunch of goosestepping bitches around here linux has no real following. even the little schizo open source fag at work asked me about what software that he was considering running with xp. so much for the linux legions. if anything it's a short stay over that most people quickly come to their senses about and move on.

as for the rest of you? yeah, it's the dogmatic faith that keeps you hanging on. you're like a bunch of miserable catholics.

Crossing over to the dark side... (1)

Basilius (184226) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365025)

...never really turns out well in the end.

Nicholas Negroponte (4, Insightful)

nighty5 (615965) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365139)

The OLPC is a noble idea, but I think Negroponte has underestimed the the will of its competitors to ensure OLPC doesn't take hold to give them a clear advantage.

When Intel "stole" the contract for the government of Venezuela, Negroponte was outraged, but what his missing is, its just business.

I congratulate Negroponte for his incredible effort to have a vision to give the poor the tools needed to escape dispair and to build a device, but in the end, if Intel can do it, and do it better - than it really doesn't matter.

I'd like to see the poor using free software, but in the end i'd prefer them to have food in their bellies and using commercial software than having free software and going hungry with a bankrupt OLPC.

Its a shame, because I personally love the look of the OLPC, the Classmate looks terrible purely from an aesthetic perspective.

Re:Nicholas Negroponte (2, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365421)

I'd like to see the poor using free software, but in the end i'd prefer them to have food in their bellies

Feeding a man for a day, vs teaching him how to fish... as they saying goes.

Re:Nicholas Negroponte (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365729)

Giving a man a fire will keep him warm for a night. Lighting a man on fire will keep him warm for the rest of his life.

Re:Nicholas Negroponte (1)

MooUK (905450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365805)

But teaching him how to fish and giving him a little bread to go with the first few fish probably works even better.

Not that I'm sure how that analogy applies to the real world...

Competitors (4, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365671)

The OLPC is a noble idea, but I think Negroponte has underestimed the the will of its competitors to ensure OLPC doesn't take hold to give them a clear advantage.

Actually, very few people seem to even understand Negroponte's real idea. The OLPC had no competitors. It was an education project, not a product. It was never about selling a novel hardware device; that was just a means to an end. Unfortunately, there had never been a similar project to set a precedent, so the press and analysts could only view it in terms that they understood: the terms of the U.S. consumer technology industry. As such, it looked as if the OLPC would have to "compete" with cheapie laptops from Intel, Asus, or whomever, despite the fact that none of these later offerings really had the same goals as the OLPC. I think far more damning to the OLPC was the fact that when it shipped it couldn't actually deliver on the project's goals. When you're asking a government to spend a few million dollars on mass orders of a piece of technology, "someday this will set you free" doesn't sound half as good as "turn it on and it runs Windows."

Stuff downsizing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365173)

"Downsizing staff" is like "cheap prices". Appears to be OK, but semantically wrong.

"Sure we lose a bit on every sale..." (1)

RJBeery (956252) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365279)

"...but we'll make up for it in VOLUME!"

I never saw this as a viable business model regardless of the economy. Like many social programs the OLPC concept is rooted in feeling good about participating in the pursuit of a dream. The hungry children in Ethiopia that are handed some hardware instead of a bag of rice are really just a side-effect.

Re:"Sure we lose a bit on every sale..." (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26366017)

I never saw this as a viable business model regardless of the economy.

Why not? That's how American supermarkets function. If you're clever at finance, you can make a lot of money despite selling products at a very modest loss. I'm sure Wal-Mart has this figured out.

I have an XO (3, Insightful)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365287)

It's pretty cool. My son loves it but it's slow and there are a few other problems, no need to relive them.

The annoying thing is that it was pretty difficult to get one. I was only able to get one if I bought another for someone else, I don;t mind, but really - if you want to drive volume...

And even then I was only able to get one for a limited special offer period.

I can't help but think that so many things would have been different if they had spent an extra $2 on a faster ARM processor and sold them more openly. More XOs in more hands would have yielded more involvement.

In other news ... (4, Interesting)

vlad_petric (94134) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365331)

A 200$ netbook [zdnet.com] is coming soon and it will run Ubuntu.

And yeah, 200$ not 400$ via "buy two donate one".

Re:In other news ... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365581)

what would any normal person do with that piece of shit? throw it in the trash. that's what.

Re:In other news ... (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#26366121)

Ok. I can understand if you just concerned with price. But the OLPC wasn't designed to just "be cheap" it was designed to be hardy. Most cheap computers aren't exactly hardy, and not really a comparison to the (idea of) the OLPC.

That's kind of like comparing a $400 notebook to a hardbook that the military might use.

"Downsizes Half of its Staff"? (3, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365385)

So, they had a problem with half of the staff being too big? Sheesh, I'd hate to be a 6ft+ OLPC employee right now. Do they amputate at the knees, or what?

Value of a Laptop for there demographic (2, Interesting)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365613)

I've always thought the problem with the OLPC project was that it developed a product for very young children, when computer literacy is a afterthought for early primary students in the developed world (at least in the US) and in contries where classrooms may not have books or basic utilities, having computers for these kids is simply not worth the cost, and for older children the platform is severely lacking what a "normal" computer is capable of.

From spending time with teachers in early primary ed, non-computer alternatives such as the Leap Pad is specifically designed to teach children to read or do math and are very easy to "plug" into the state cirriculm. When students do go to the computer lab, they either need to buy specialized software, which is expensive to teach them the cirriculm, or just have the kids goof off in MS paint or playing web-games (which is not entirely bad, but less important and effective than other teaching methods). When you can't read and can't do subtraction, being able to draw pictures on a computer is very low on the list of priorities. Because of this, it makes me think the OLPC product out of the box isn't going to be sufficent for real learning, in particular where web access is non-existent or slow/hap-hazard or not in the native language; particularly for young children whom the project seems to be aimed at.

I think the project would have done much more good by producting computers with a standard Linux desktop, OO.org, Firefox, etc... (maybe toned-down versions to run on less RAM/HD space) and marketed them to middle-and-high school age students, particularly those academic performance would make them able to potentially go to university or have a "office job". When I see employees and students (when I am teaching) who can barely use OO.org because they "learned on Word" or can't find their files "on a PC because I have a Mac", it leads me to believe having the Sugar UI, as neat as it is, makes it so different from a computer they'll use in higher-ed or in the workplace that what they are learning isn't going to be nearly as effective. If Windows is the only way to turn an OLPC into a "normal" computer then it seems worth it, even though I'd rather see it loaded with OSS to save the schools money and give them exposure to Linux which is becoming a very popular desktop OS in the developing world in particular. I know some will say "keep it Sugar and let them dump Linux on it", but can you imagine what it would take to re-configure thousands of these machines, let alone creating an install that meets its hardware available? It would be cheaper to buy the machines preloaded with Windows versus all that effort, particularly if MS is practically giving it away. Sometimes ideology is only worth so much when you're strapped to make it happen.

$100 for a machine that is a glorified chat client when the participants are in the same room or an electronic coloring book seems very wasteful when you think of how many crayons, texts, papers and pens that machine is worth to the poorest of poor students. $100 for a real computer to teach college bound students how to be successful and familar with the workplaces requirements, seems like a deal, so long as it is implemented wisely and at a time in the students development where it is going to be worth it. It feels like giving an OLPC to a kid before 4th grade is like giving a violin to a baby.

The real reason it failed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365691)

Negroponte was a fool. He was too confident.
He expected people to just buy this up in the millions without any other companies also jumping at the idea.

"Third World only", this is possibly the most stupid idea of them all.
ANYONE should have been able to buy them, period.

He let in WinTel for crying out loud.

Also, the final one (and technically first): Not For Profit.

He did it all wrong, he made the wrong decisions, and that is why this is only going to get worse until they realize everything they are doing is stupid.
Screw the "we want to be good" mentality, JUST DO IT, regardless of what people think of you, because you obviously can't do it with your current mentality.

I'd have bought one of them, the thing sounded fantastic, then all the problems just piled up and things got cut.
Now, i probably won't because i don't want to give money to fund stupidity.

And before i get moderated a troll, i don't like this any more than you do.
The truth is a harsh mistress.

Predictable (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#26366093)

Like it or not, a lot of people donated their time and energy with the idea of bringing the benefit of software without the dependence of non FOSS.

What about books and roofs and pencils first? (3, Insightful)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 5 years ago | (#26366095)

My reaction is the same as the first time I heard about this "PC." Why would these impoverished nations spend $100 per machine, when what the kids need are books, pencils and a roof on their school so classes aren't cancelled - Or shoes, so they can walk to school in the first place. If we in the west want to make a difference, instead of buying a $250 PC-toy at Wal-Mart we should give our $100 to a charity that can help with some of the above issues and stop worrying about whether they ran Windows or Linux or used the wrong flavour of WiFi.

No FOSS no way. (1)

logfish (1245392) | more than 5 years ago | (#26366155)

I would have bought one if they didn't support MS the way they constantly do. After pissing off Richard they deserve it...
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