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Big Delays, Small Laptops: OLPC XO Recipients Mad 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the give-one-get-one-if-you-are-lucky dept.
PCWMike writes to tell us about the growing concern over the failure of OLPC to deliver laptops to some of its customers. PC World editor-in-chief Harry McCracken notes that record-keeping was poor for some of the people who paid via PayPal. A report on LinuxJournal also suggests that customer information was lost due to errors in the database software used by OLPC. Quoting PC World: "OLPC spokesperson Jackie Lustig acknowledges problems with the ordering and the fulfillment process, but says the biggest challenges are a short supply of XO laptops and the organization's ability to meet consumer demand for the XO laptop. Some also wonder whether chronic delivery problems for Give One, Get One donors may bode poorly for the 15 countries slated to receive nearly 500,000 XO notebooks. Lustig says delivering in bulk to just over a dozen countries is infinitely simpler than processing and delivering 80,000 individual laptops."
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Big Delays, Small Laptops: OLPC XO Recipients Mad

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  • It *is* simpler (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlackHawk (15529) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:19AM (#22180286) Journal
    He is absolutely correct; a half-million units shipped to just 12 to 15 destinations *IS* simple by comparison. Just look at the complexities of UPS' operations in moving 80000 packages within the boundaries of the US, and that becomes apparent.
  • Please reconcile (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mccalli (323026) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:20AM (#22180298) Homepage
    From the summary:

    "OLPC spokesperson Jackie Lustig acknowledges problems with the ordering and the fulfillment process, but says the biggest challenges are a short supply of XO laptops and the organization's ability to meet consumer demand for the XO laptop....Lustig says delivering in bulk to just over a dozen countries is infinitely simpler than processing and delivering 80,000 individual laptops."

    But how can that be, if the problem is short supply of the laptop?

    Cheers,
    Ian
  • Patience and Hope (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jbrohan (1102957) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (nahorbj)> on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:21AM (#22180310)
    This OLPC is going to change the world. I've got mine now and it is wonderful exactly what is needed IMHO. They are trying to do something that is very very hard and they need all the encouragement and kind words that are to be found. I hope they solve their delivery problems smoothly soon. No lack of talent in this group of people.
  • by emj (15659) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:22AM (#22180312) Homepage Journal
    They don't want to do distribution, shipping tens of thousands of things all around a continent isn't that easy.. Just getting payments information from paypal can be a hard thing to do.

    Saying this will happen to governments orders as well is very strange, and uncalled for.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:24AM (#22180328)
    ...but PC World, questioning OLPC's ability to deliver? And goodness me, look here: Intel and Microsoft with their alternative. No doubt Classmate sales-pitches will involve a lot of paraphrasing from articles of this type.

    It seems that a lot of recent OLPC stories are being drummed up to try and discredit them, and it is a bit sickening.
  • by mspohr (589790) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:35AM (#22180412)
    It looks like this eager and well intentioned group of people is trying to do it all but perhaps is best at developing the software and hardware. Perhaps they should focus on that and leave sales and distribution to people who are experts with these much different skills.
  • by legoman666 (1098377) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:36AM (#22180414)
    Change the world? Hardly. It's just a laptop; it doesn't cure cancer, it doesn't feed hungry mouths, it doesn't provide shelter, it doesn't provide electricity, it doesn't cure AIDS, and it doesn't solve a whole other myriad of problems. It is a laptop. One would think that people in thrid world countries recieveing the OLPC would have more pressing matters than giving everyone a laptop, but I guess not. There are a million better things to spend money on.
  • by Obstin8 (827030) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:42AM (#22180468)
    This article, and others like it that I've read, seem a little bit mean-spirited. OLPC is, after all, a charity organization - a noble one at that -, and not some high-volume order fulfillment logistics operation. All these articles suggest a crass, inflated-expectation, instant-gratification, "I WANT IT NOW!", type of consumerism to me.

    I'm in Canada, and waited 7 weeks for my XO to arrive. No biggie. I've waited almost as long for Dell to ship correctly configured servers on occasion. Those were biggies. Were my expectations appropriate for each company? I think so.

    I'm sure that OLPC will honor all their commitments and get these orders out as soon as they can. Sometime s**t happens, and things falls through the cracks. People should just take a deep breath, and ask themselves if they'd rather have their XO right now, or have the one they donated delivered first.

    G1G1 doesn't stand for "Get one, give one".

  • Re:It *is* simpler (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:42AM (#22180472)

    He is absolutely correct; a half-million units shipped to just 12 to 15 destinations *IS* simple by comparison. Just look at the complexities of UPS' operations in moving 80000 packages within the boundaries of the US, and that becomes apparent.

    Sure, but they're not hand delivering the things themselves. All they needed was some decent software to keep track of orders, print labels, slap the labels on boxes, and ship the boxes via UPS. This, it seems, is what they FUBAR'ed.

  • Re:It *is* simpler (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:48AM (#22180514) Journal
    Shipping one unit to one location is simple.

    Shipping 100 units to 100 locations is simple.

    Shipping 80,000 units to 80,000 locations is also simple, though the volume is orders of magnitude higher.

    The problem is that they did not appropriately plan and acquire/devote resources to distribution. Maybe they didn't think about the extra cost associated with tracking and distributing those orders.

    There is no reason why distribution of pre-orders should present any kind of challenge to a company. This is not on-demand shipping, or just-in-time delivery. This is simply basic distribution scaled up.

    Maybe I'm a bit harsh, but there is simply no excuse for someone to promise deliverables without a plan to deliver them. Did they not expect so many orders?
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:48AM (#22180516) Homepage
    Actually not true, in fact getting 'all corporationy' really means how far can you minimise service, support and the cost savings achieved do not exceed the number of customers lost, including the customary PR=B$ snow jobs, which attempt to convince the customer they are the only one with a problem and it was their fault anyhow and even so the corporation still cares about their problem and it will be completely resolved in two weeks, two more weeks, yet two more weeks, just two more weeks, honest just two more weeks, 'er', two weeks after a likely to be successful class action law suit is initiated.

    All OLPC needs to do is ensure they are able to focus upon delivery or subcontract those services out to a logistics company that can achieve those goals at a reasonable price. The logistics route is often simpler as those companies can readily handle break down packaging from bulk to individual orders as well as final delivery to the recipient and if required keep the recipient advised if there are any delivery delays.

  • by gorim (700913) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:50AM (#22180534)
    If the online tracking database worked. As of now you type in your email address or order number and it can't find you. This leads one to believe that the order was lost even though payment was already extracted. At least with your Dell shipment, Dell could tell you the order was in the system and will ship in X time.
  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:51AM (#22180544) Homepage Journal
    Exactly. OLPC project is not a fucking business.

    Their core job is not to make and sell laptops to individuals. What would be great here (and if the free market really actually worked...), would be for a dedicated company to step in and sell the things directly to people in over-developed countries. That way the project can get on with developing and distributing to governments, and someone else can distribute to individuals.

    Of course, they might cost slightly more because of the profit motive, but heck, most of them are seemingly being bought by geeks who already have 3 computers and can afford an extra $50 or so.
  • by poetmatt (793785) on Friday January 25, 2008 @09:57AM (#22180592) Journal
    Bringing a drastic improvement in education to poor countries in a very economical fashion is indeed a world changing thing. Doing it without locking someone into a corporation's interest just makes it that much more important to the rest of us who hate Microsoft/IBM.
    There are better things to spend on, but long-term improving education is one of the best things to spend on for any nation including our own.
  • by nuzak (959558) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:03AM (#22180650) Journal
    > It's better to teach a man how to fish than to just give him a fish.

    And better yet to let a man fish [thp.org]. Or a woman, as the case may be (kind of insane to not allow the majority of your farm workforce to own property).
  • by DMoylan (65079) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:11AM (#22180746)
    but why even use a company when there are organisations like the red cross who are global could handle the shipping to major cities for collection and make a nice profit from the sale of each unit. just a random thought.

    on a personal note, living in ireland meant that i couldn't order one of these unforunately. so i went for an asus eee. the demand for those this side of the pond was incredible. ordered december 4 arrived jan 22. i had to get mine from the uk as our company hardware supplier gave up after ordering 200 and only receiving 16. demand for cheap micro portables was insane.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:41AM (#22181138)
    Well, when is the last time you had a major reputable corporation just completely lose you order after you paid them? Not lose your shipment, not screw your order up, but COMPLETELY LOSE IT. This suggests a pretty basic level of incompetence.
  • Re:It *is* simpler (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday January 25, 2008 @10:48AM (#22181204) Homepage Journal
    Shipping out five or ten is simple. 80,000 is hard.
    You have to hire and train the people to do it. They have to get paid, taxes collected, schelde, deliveries must be timed shipping bills must be paid, boxes bought. Then you must make sure that the people do the work correctly and that they don't steal the notebooks.
    It really isn't as simple as you think it is. Let's face it these people are note stupid but they are having problems with this. It only seems simple from the view point of arrogance and ignorance. Just shipping out 10,000 CDs for a software update is a big job.

  • by Hobart (32767) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:01AM (#22181390) Homepage Journal
    I've shelled out $423.95 x 2 and am still waiting. And it's a shame that it's taking so long. But I'm happier that working-class kids in Mongolia [laptop.org] (no, not "starving to death" people) have laptops, and I can wait. (I'm posting about it on THE INTERNET so clearly I'm not exactly struggling for 'net access.)

    They had pro-bono donation of services from three (or more) different companies to handle ordering and distribution. Not having a logistics manager or dealing with the process openly *is* a shame. Lots of individuals unaffiliated have been volunteering their time, trying to help, but have been powerless to actually *do* anything, since the volunteers don't have access to all of the data sets.

    Hopefully the next time they offer G1G1 they'll manage the order/delivery status themselves, they *should* be able to track each laptop from Quanta, to the shipping carrier, to the port, to FedEx.
  • by wall0159 (881759) on Friday January 25, 2008 @11:16AM (#22181574)
    Well, I haven't had a major coporation lose an order of mine. However, I'm a small sample set.

    I've just moved to the UK, and the incompetence of various companies has absolutely astounded me. I've just set up
    Banking
    Phone
    Internet
    Mobile Phones
    Insurance

    Not once - NOT A SINGLE TIME - has the company not cocked up something that has required me to phone them back (and queue on the phone) at least once. Several cases have require multiple such calls (the worst required me to ditch them and go with someone else). Seriously, corporations suck - in my experience they're much more hopeless than government organisations. I reckon that whoever says the opposite has an agenda.
  • Re:It *is* simpler (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lugae (88858) on Friday January 25, 2008 @12:28PM (#22182482) Homepage
    You, sir, are correct. Consumer fulfillment can be done very effectively, but it takes a lot of setup time to fool-proof things. Since they're only doing one run of this consumer fulfillment business, they probably didn't do all of the setup necessary. I would think that their ability to deliver these to their target audience abroad will be much simpler by comparison, which is where the production issue comes up.

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