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OLPC Says No Plans for Consumer Release 208

Posted by Zonk
from the us-doesn't-have-poor-folks dept.
Gr88pe writes "The One Laptop Per Child product has clarified that they have not made a decision on whether or not to carry out a consumer release of the XO laptop, despite previous reports. From the article: 'OLPC told Ars Technica in a statement that the company has no plans for a consumer version of the laptop. "Contrary to recent reports, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is not planning a consumer version of its current XO laptop, designed for the poorest and most remote children in the world," said Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC chairman.' They are considering a number of plans, but have made no formal decision."
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OLPC Says No Plans for Consumer Release

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  • Well, which is it? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LotsOfPhil (982823) on Friday January 12, 2007 @06:48PM (#17582618)
    "Contrary to recent reports, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is not planning a consumer version of its current XO laptop, designed for the poorest and most remote children in the world," said Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC chairman.

    I thought it wasn't for the really poor people. I thought the laptop was for countries that were sufficiently developed that they could focus on education as opposed to sanitation, starvation, etc.
  • Production (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday January 12, 2007 @06:49PM (#17582644) Homepage
    I've heard good arguments for this (more people hacking, less incentive for a gray/black market, buy one for the price of two so the second goes to a kid), but could they be taking this position because of production? After all if they want to give a million of these away and people like /.ers buy 100,000... while that would mean money to give 100,000 laptops away to kids we just bit 10% of their production away. I seem to remember reading somewhere that based on the number they will be giving out it will be one of the top 4 laptop "brands" in the world almost immediately. Perhaps they simply can't spare the production at this time?
  • Why the hell not, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vespazzari (141683) on Friday January 12, 2007 @06:53PM (#17582712)
    I think plenty of people where happy with the idea of buy 2 get 1. I would love to get my hands on one or 2 of those. It seems stupid to limit your marked to begin with. Unless I am misunderstanding the article, which seems to have to different points going on. I understand that the development is not geared toward the developed world but that doesn't mean that some will not want it.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday January 12, 2007 @06:54PM (#17582746) Homepage Journal
    I thought it wasn't for the really poor people. I thought the laptop was for countries that were sufficiently developed that they could focus on education as opposed to sanitation, starvation, etc.

    Uh, education is the only answer to problems with sanitation, starvation, etc. If someone just comes in and does things for you, then you become dependent on them. It's been shown in the past that when you give a lot of food away, people produce less food, people are healthier, people are more able to reproduce... and their ability to produce food is decreased while their need for food is increased.

    But if you instead educate people and teach them the values of sanitation, the dangers of unprotected sex, new methods of food cultivation, production, preparation, and preservation... then you have given them a gift which will benefit them every day, inform their every action, and which they can pass on to their children.

    Education is the only solution to the problems of the third world. We cannot solve their problems for them. Even if we solved every problem we would have created a world full of dependents. If that's really what you want, then by all means focus on just giving the necessities of daily life to people.

    I'm not saying we shouldn't give people food - but what I am saying is that we shouldn't give people food (or anything else) without giving them education and that education is the most valuable gift we can give them.

  • Re:Production (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday January 12, 2007 @06:57PM (#17582796) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps they simply can't spare the production at this time?

    If that is true, then they are probably having problems with production already. Instead of giving away a laptop for each one purchased, they could use that money to improve production capacity, to do research on further cost reductions, or to pay for additional software development. It doesn't necessarily have to be a buy-two-get-one scheme to be useful.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday January 12, 2007 @06:57PM (#17582798) Homepage
    We all see the OLPC thing as a fun little toy. We all want to play with it. But for us to have a toy to play with may easily backfire into a situation where the next set of 419'ers or click-fraud farms are enabled through the use of OLPC devices.

    If the use an application of these things are considerably more limited and not general purpose, then that could go a long way to prevent their abuse.
  • by namityadav (989838) on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:15PM (#17583076)
    I agree completely. Although I am still not sure if I'll be as convinced by your statements if I replace "education" with "laptops".

    What I am trying to say is that although education is certainly the only way to solve the problems in the third-world, I am still not sure if OLPC is the best way to provide that education.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:15PM (#17583084)
    If people demand it, why should the market supply it?
    People demand free cars.
    Should Ford step up to the plate?
  • Bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:18PM (#17583144)
    Your argument is a crock. If someone needs food, they are going to sell that fucking computer. Which makes giving people without food computers: pointless.

    Also, if you want to know who he's talking to, read any other Slashdot post about the OLPC. He's talking to every person on Slashdot who said "you idiot, this isn't for bare-means countries in Africa, it's for countries like Libya and Brazil." in response to anyone pointing out that starving people have little use for a computer. So which is it, Slashdot? THAT'S his question.
  • by rm999 (775449) on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:22PM (#17583200)
    in a laptop case. Because that is all this is. I just bought an Ipaq with very similar specs for 120 dollars. The only thing the laptop has is a bigger (but lower quality) screen...

    I agree that the OLPC is designed well and sounds really cool, but in practice I think most people in the developed world would be hard-pressed to find actual uses for it. Our youth shouldn't be trained on a specially-designed OS that has little relation to actual OS's when we can afford simple windows, linux, or OSX based desktops. Most adults wouldn't be caught outside using this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:OLPC-XO_in_Colo r.jpg [wikipedia.org]
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:29PM (#17583322)
    Several reasons why not, most notably:

    1. Selling the same model would undermine the social-disapproval mechanism the project hopes will discourage a gray market in the OLPC machines; which is why the program has often said they are looking at making a distinctive derivative version of the machine for individual sale.

    2. The price point is controlled by the fact that they aren't supporting an infrastructure for individual sales/support/etc., only selling to national ministries of education in enormous lots. Paying twice the cost that governments were buying them for in bulk wouldn't be enough to support commercial individual sale and have excess "profit" to subsidize delivering one to the developing world.
  • by the Gray Mouser (1013773) on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:36PM (#17583424)
    If they allowed consumers to purchase the laptops, they would need to develop the corporate infrastructure that would begin at the factory and end with a worker putting a single laptop in a box and shipping that box to a single consumer.

    There went all the cost savings they gained by only supporting large purchases.

    By only supporting large sales, they can pack, sell, and ship these computers by the container. Load the container onto a train at the factory (or truck to a train), then to a shipping port, and ship to final destination country.

    Far simpler and more economical.
  • Chanel Conflict... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WoTG (610710) on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:38PM (#17583442) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if the hesitancy on the part of them to release this for consumer purchase is due to pressure from AMD and the other component manufacturers. (AMD manufactures the CPU in the OLPC) They don't want to sell millions of low-end CPUs, screens, etc. in the Developed World... they are much better off with the current entry level of $500 or so for a laptop.

    Personally, I would consider converting my home server to one of these OLPCs. A couple hundred MHz, a couple USB ports for storage, and low power usage sound about right.
  • by coderpath (1038658) on Friday January 12, 2007 @07:48PM (#17583556) Homepage
    Smart. A product which would totally fail in the marketplace under normal circumstance will probably become a "must have" item simply because you can't buy it here. I'll be buying mine off eBay.
  • by BillGatesLoveChild (1046184) on Friday January 12, 2007 @08:08PM (#17583762) Journal
    The mission here is to give the 3rd world easy access to laptops. While it'd be cool for we well-off to have yet another cheap consumer electronics device, that's not the point and would distract resources and attention away from their mission. Since quantities would eventually be limited, even the one-for-me-one-for-third-world-kiddy idea would mean fewer where they are needed. Longer term, that's a nice idea, but for now best get them where they're needed. You could make an argument that underclasses in rich countries need them too, but if they're at Frys something has gone wrong. I'm on a low income, but even I have 5 working laptops and 2 working desktops. I don't need another PC and probably neither do you! :-)
  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday January 12, 2007 @08:10PM (#17583774)
    What I am trying to say is that although education is certainly the only way to solve the problems in the third-world, I am still not sure if OLPC is the best way to provide that education.

    What you (and everyone else who say this kind of thing fail to realize) is that whether this is the "best" method for giving them education is irrelevant. The people behind this project are hackers -- their area of expertise is computers, so computers is what their project is damn well going to be about! It's not a choice between this and some other hypothetical solution; it's a choice between this and nothing at all.

    So seriously, if you think you can do a better job, do it yourself. Otherwise, shut the fuck up because you have no right to criticize!

  • by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Friday January 12, 2007 @08:12PM (#17583794)
    I agree that the OLPC is designed well and sounds really cool, but in practice I think most people in the developed world would be hard-pressed to find actual uses for it.

    90% of "computing" work involves writing documents. This would do fine for the purpose. As it would for chatting, e-mail, and a lot of web browsing.

    Most adults wouldn't be caught outside using this:

    I seem to recall Apple selling quite a few clamshell iBooks. If anything, this is a bit more elegant and tasteful. I'd certainly buy one or two.

    -b.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday January 12, 2007 @08:13PM (#17583806)
    There is a surplus of used computers in the world, these are the computers people in poor areas need.


    No, they aren't. They aren't designed for use in rural areas with limited power and other infrastructure, the OLPC machines are. Further, the used computers aren't to one standard, the OLPC machines are, which enables national ministries of education buying them to support them more easily, and have standard software and content that works the same on all of them. Etc.

    They would be cheaper than $150 each to buy and ship,


    Not much, if at all.

    and they would be of far more use than these crappy laptops.


    Actually, they'd be far less use. They aren't designed for the use they'd be put to, they often aren't reliable to start with, they don't present a common, open platform. They don't, unlike the OLPC machines, have keyboards specific to the receiving country to accommodate national languages. In short, they are nearly, if not entirely, useless for the role that the OLPC machines are targetted for.

  • by namityadav (989838) on Friday January 12, 2007 @08:52PM (#17584224)
    Okay, here goes my karma .. but dude, CALM DOWN !! It's not like I've kidnapped your kid for ransom or something.

    The post above mine was talking about how "education" is the only answer to solving the misery in the third-world, not free food or free service for sanitation. And although I agree to his points about education, I don't think that OLPC is a synonym to "education" (YET, at least). And although I definitely approve (Not that it matters) and appreciate the OLPC concept, that does not mean that I think that OLPC is the best way to provide education at this point and time.

    It's like saying that although drinking soda is better than not drinking any liquid at all, but it's still not as good as drinking water.
  • by Jump (135604) on Friday January 12, 2007 @09:02PM (#17584358)
    This will only counter the goal of the whole project. Some people will want to pay money just to have a few of these in their toy collection. As a result, some criminals will rob laptops from the children and sell them on ebay. Selling them cheap would instead make the value of a used laptop even less and also help lower cost.

  • by alegrepublic (83799) on Friday January 12, 2007 @09:12PM (#17584456)
    The OLPC issue is making it crystal clear that there is no such thing as free market self-regulation. It is obvious that the market demands machines like these. The fact that none is available shows that producers control the market, not consumers, and whoever thinks otherwise lives in delusion.
  • by hamelis (820185) on Friday January 12, 2007 @11:30PM (#17585960)
    Believe it or not, formalized education isn't necessary to learn most basic skills. Advanced, highly technical skills, yes. You don't learn to be a surgeon or theoretical physicist without formalized education, but you can learn to fix cars, write code, build a computer, write a novel, play the guitar, ride a bike, drive a car, almost anything else without formal (or informal) education. And, I mean.. saying that knowing how to learn is a learned skill is circular. C'mon.

    Lots of kids teach themselves to read. Through osmosis? Precisely. Did someone teach you how to talk? walk? No. Tens of millions of children learn to talk their native language every year, without any formal instruction, just by "osmosis" as you call it. They learn to walk largely the same way, with some help to avoid injuring themselves. Would kids start walking without all the fancy crap we have to help them learn? Well, humans seem to have done just fine for the first couple million years, so I'd say yes.

    Do people need to be taught to learn? Not in a joke. Humans are born learning machines: it is, simply put, what we do, what evolution has equipped us for. For you to say that children are born incapable of learning and somehow need to be taught to do so is simply ludicrous, and flies in the face of every shred of available evidence.

    You are right to say that basic needs are obviously a first priority. And a child who starts with more advantages ends up better off. But that doesn't mean that anyone needs a formalized education in order to learn, even to learn to read (which, let's face it, isn't that complex). Formalized education does not have a monopoly on learning. Giving kids laptops, and access to the Internet, however rudimentary, is vastly increasing the amount of information they have access to, and can learn by osmosis, just because they think it's interesting. It's not a panacea, but it's a fantastic idea.
  • by judd (3212) on Saturday January 13, 2007 @01:19AM (#17587032) Homepage
    I absolutely agree. And make the charity markup ones A DIFFERENT COLOUR. Then a) you can tell I didn't steal it off a kid, or buy it on the black market and b) I get the credit when people see my "Donor Model" OLPC.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13, 2007 @05:04AM (#17588482)
    There's absolutely no reason why they shouldn't sell to "ordinary consumers". On the contrary, selling 100k more laptops, maybe at a premium markup of $50 apiece, they will effectively lower both the risk of production, and the costs for the actual developing countries. By spreading fixed costs over more quantity, they can also sell the machines for a lower price overall. But NAAAA, we don't want that, wouldn't we?

    Some people here are advocating to sell the $150 laptop for $300, but that's destined to fail too. Remember: price is subjective, so people will only buy the laptop is they think they'll have some value in it.

    At $300, most people here will simply buy used Thinkpads off ebay, and at $300, many people in developing countries are likely to sell their cheap $150 machines to developed countries.

    OLPC: please learn some business and economics.

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