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Why Intel and OLPC Parted Ways 393

Posted by Zonk
from the so-the-drama dept.
runamock writes "The New York Times has an article that sheds some light on why Intel left the OLPC board: 'A frail partnership between Intel and the One Laptop Per Child educational computing group was undone last month in part by an Intel saleswoman: She tried to persuade a Peruvian official to drop the country's commitment to buy a quarter-million of the organization's laptops in favor of Intel PCs. Intel and the group had a rocky relationship from the start in their short-lived effort to get inexpensive laptops into the hands of the world's poorest children. But the saleswoman's tactic was the final straw for Nicholas Negroponte.'"
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Why Intel and OLPC Parted Ways

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  • by mboverload (657893) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:12AM (#21931818) Journal
    "Intel was unwilling to work cooperatively with OLPC on software development. Over the entire six months it was a member of the association, Intel contributed nothing of value to OLPC: Intel never contributed in any way to our engineering efforts and failed to provide even a single line of code to the XO software efforts - even though Intel marketed its products as being able to run the XO software. The best Intel could offer in regards to an "Intel inside" XO laptop was one that would be more expensive and consume more power - exactly the opposite direction of OLPC's stated mandate and vision."
  • by kie (30381) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @09:15AM (#21931842) Homepage Journal
    For those too lazy to click to see the official response, (which is pretty damning):
    INTEL RESIGNS FROM OLPC

    We at OLPC have been disappointed that Intel did not deliver on any of the promises they made when they joined OLPC; while we were hopeful for a positive, collaborative relationship, it never materialized.

    Intel came in late to the OLPC association: they joined an already strong and thriving OLPC Board of Directors made up of premier technology partners; these partners have been crucial in helping us fulfill our mission of getting laptops into the hands of children in the developing world. We have always embraced and welcomed other low-cost laptop providers to join us in this mission. But since joining the OLPC Board of Directors in July, Intel has violated its written agreement with OLPC on numerous occasions. Intel continued to disparage the XO laptop in nations that had already decided to partner with OLPC (Uruguay and Peru), with countries that were in the midst of choosing a laptop solution (Brazil and Nigeria), and other countries contemplating a laptop program (Mongolia).

    Intel was unwilling to work cooperatively with OLPC on software development. Over the entire six months it was a member of the association, Intel contributed nothing of value to OLPC: Intel never contributed in any way to our engineering efforts and failed to provide even a single line of code to the XO software efforts - even though Intel marketed its products as being able to run the XO software. The best Intel could offer in regards to an "Intel inside" XO laptop was one that would be more expensive and consume more power - exactly the opposite direction of OLPC's stated mandate and vision.

    Despite OLPC's best efforts to work things out with Intel and several warnings that their behavior was untenable, it is clear that Intel's heart has never been in working collaboratively as a part of OLPC. This is well illustrated by the way in which our separation was announced singlehandedly by Intel; Intel issued a statement to the press behind our backs while simultaneously asking us to work on a joint statement with them. Actions do speak louder than words in this case. As we said in the past, we view the children as a mission; Intel views them as a market.

    The benefit to the departure of Intel from the OLPC board is a renewed clarity in purpose and the marketplace; we will continue to focus on our mission of providing every child with an opportunity for learning.

  • "Intel's behavior regarding the OLPC is reprehensible."

    Intel employees I've met have gone further than that. They are saying that the management of Intel CEO Paul S. Otellini [wikipedia.org] is reprehensible. They say he is socially unskilled. They are saying he creates dissension and reduces morale among Intel employees by creating adversarial situations.

    Certainly Otellini's handling of the One Laptop Per Child initiative could not have been worse. It was as though he said to himself, "How can I get billions of dollars worth of free publicity for Intel, all negative?" Intel's actions have created the impression that Intel wants to kill acceptance of the OLPC so that it can kill the OLPC project and then raise prices on its own products.

    Anyone thinking of buying an Intel consumer product should know that Intel had a consumer products division in 2001 and decided to close it: Intel axes its consumer electronics unit [zdnet.co.uk]. Why? In my opinion, the Intel Consumer Products Division was extremely poorly managed.

    Also, Intel's marketing has been incredibly poorly managed. At one point, Intel was trying to sell processors by giving away dolls. Typical reaction: "Could this be the end of the bunny ads? We sure as hell hope so..." [theregister.co.uk]

    There is no evidence that I can see that Intel is managed better today. Here is an April 2006 example I found quickly: Intel's consumer fumbling [zdnet.co.uk], in which Intel is trying to sell products using an unpronounceable trademark.
  • Re:No surprise here (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:23AM (#21932298)
    At the annual meeting, shareholders can ask questions. Sure, if you've only got a few votes, you'll be brushed off - but embarrassing answers have a tendency to wind up on blogs, and in reports by special interest groups.

    Of course, you can go one better, and phone up your pension fund today, and ask about their investment policies, their exclusionary list, their set of standards for Corporate social responsibility. When pension funds, who often own percentage-stakes in companies, speak up - or worse, band together - corporations tend to sit up. Is your pension fund a member of ceres [ceres.org]? The same goes for mutual funds, you can influence their buying and voting policies - or simply buy into another fund. In Europe, several of the world's largest pension funds have socially aware investment policies, examining company's conduct with respect to environment, workers' rights, arms trade, etc.

    If you own stock yourself, make sure you get proxy ballots. Perhaps join an investor coalition, like ICCR [iccr.org]. They've only been at this for, like, 35 years.

    In fact, groups like ICCR and CERES are calling for shareholder rights [saveshareh...rights.org] to be preserved, precisely because they are effectively using those rights. Which may at times inconvenience boards of directors (oh dear, we wouldn't want million dollar income CxOs be inconvenienced now, would we? They might have to work to earn a living).

  • by coolGuyZak (844482) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @10:47AM (#21932454)

    You can only wonder if Intel did this to appease its biggest customer, Microsoft.

    Sit down, and wrap your head around the idea of sales. Salespeople are typically paid by commission. The more they sell, the more they earn. They also have quotas. If they don't sell enough in a given time span, they're terminated. Salespeople think short-term; they think tactics; they think until the end of the sale. They think, "If I don't get the sale I move on, and so does the other guy. It's just business." Long term, strategic goals don't enter the picture (that's marketing). And this isn't stupid or callous, it's what the job requires of them.

    In Intel's case, a saleswoman saw an opportunity to push more product. She took it, it blew up in her face, and Intel gets to scrub the fallout. The story ends there. So please, do us a favor and cut the Microsoft conspiracy a break.

  • Power consumption (Score:5, Informative)

    by mutube (981006) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @11:17AM (#21932690) Homepage

    How about electricity for every child?

    See the power consumption data [wikipedia.org] for the laptop. It runs a 2W (versus 10-45W for a normal laptop) in normal mode and down to 0.3W-0.8W when in "e-book" mode. Running that against the battery data [laptop.org] which reports 16.5-22Watt-hours gives a normal-usage of 8 to 11 hours, or e-book usage for 20-73 hours.

    You can also get a pull-string charger [engadget.com] for when there is no supply.

    This isn't comparable to companies supplying old hardware as a goodwill gesture: the OLPC has been thought through and planned for these situations from the beginning.
  • by ArtDent (83554) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @12:34PM (#21933308)
    Reading this article made my blood boil. Intel very clearly acted in bad faith, and their actions against OLPC will no doubt result in poor kids being deprived of access to technology. Immediately, my thoughts turned to the business I've given Intel and whether I could ever buy from them again.

    But my second, more constructive thought was "what can I do to help OLPC?" and I easily found two great answers.

    1. Donate. [laptopgiving.org] For just $200, you can give an XO laptop to a child in a developing nation. It immediately makes a difference in the life of one child, and it's an opportunity for the XO to prove itself. Our donations no doubt will drive future sales for OLPC. Donations are entirely tax-deductible (Question: does anyone know they're tax-deductible for Canadians?).

    2. Develop. [laptop.org] If you're a programmer, you can donate some of your time and work on an XO Activity. There's already a pretty impressive array of available software [laptop.org], but there's lots of room for work, and this is one way that OLPC can really differentiate itself. Think about it: thousands of passionate hackers contributing quality free software, all targeted at this machine. That's something that Intel and Microsoft will never be able to compete with because no one else is ever going to be passionate about Classmate & Windows.

    Let's make a difference!
  • Re:Intel just sucks. (Score:5, Informative)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @01:12PM (#21933604)

    It's like if a construction company and Habitat for Humanity...

    Actually, Mr. Negropnte himself had a better analogy, "They played another dirty trick in Peru," he said. "It's a little bit like McDonald's competing with the World Food Program."

    I think that is a better analogy because the OLPC project designed an ideal system for these children with lots of cool, new features not available on regular computers. Intel didn't steal the plans, they just made a regular, really low end PC running windows. It doesn't have the cool software, doesn't auto-discover other machines and create a mesh network and allow kids to network applications together. It is really unsuited to the task, just as the food provided by McDonald's is largely unsuited to meeting the basic nutritional needs of children when compared to the offerings from the World Food Program.

    Intel could have met their obligations and tried to pitch their new mobile, low power chipset for the next version of the OLPC. Instead they tried to be unethical and tried to poison deals with their competitor through deception, ignoring what is best for underprivileged children. This actually makes me more likely to buy an AMD processor for my next upgrade to my home server, but since this will not get any real press it will still probably make Intel money in the long run and they'll probably do it again next time they get a chance.

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Sunday January 06, 2008 @04:37PM (#21935326)
    Wow, The Economist has some serious Intel lobbyist there. But as you spell similar sentiment in your post, I will answer.

    But which in the long run is easier and cheaper to build and maintain?

    Which is more likely to attract developers, run the most software? The mass-market laptop built with off-the-shelf parts or the customized OLPC?
    In short, again and again - OLPC isn't mean to be laptop in classical sense, it means learning tool. That's first. Therefore we are not talking about attraction of developers, because most of places where XO will be used there are no additional funds of spending money of some "attracted devs" software. However, if some "software company" thinks they can create something for it, first, XO is open platform, images are available in internet freely, so called "Activities" module uses Python, therefore any serious company can invest some money and create software for it without any big problem. Ohh, and don't say that those super devs don't know Python.
    For me, such cries mean nothing but a "but it doesn't have Windows aka holy universal operational system! How can we earn something from that?". Guess what - world doesn't only turn around Microsoft and Windows sphere. Their choice was to be bind to success of one platform. Now they get nervous every time when some project accours who can destroy their monopoly? So be it. I am only getting nervous when really good people are getting called arrogant stupids, just because they said "No" to Billy boy.

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