[LINK] $100 laptop could sell to public

Glen Turner glen.turner at aarnet.edu.au
Mon Jan 15 23:42:19 AEDT 2007

rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au wrote:

> OK. Sarcasm over, lowest form of wit and so on. The entire scheme is 
> wonderful publicity and that's *all*. It makes me wonder if it wasn't at 
> first dreamed up by Alan Abel. "I'll bet I can get some big-brain to 
> believe he can solve the world's problems with a computer..."

I'm not sure that educators are buying into the hype.

India pretty much gave OLPC a dressing down -- no courseware,
no curriculum material, cultural ignorance (India had trouble
getting its teachers to stop rote reading from a textbook and
to use blackboards and OLPC hadn't really addressed how to get
them to make the step to a PC), no train-the-trainer materials
and a cost equal to entire current the non-salary schooling

Most countries that have agreed are strong on words like
"trial" and "rigorous evaluation". Read between the lines
of the article on the NT schools and you see the same thing.
Basically the NT article says that they are thinking of
trialling the OLPC.

I'm not sure that OLPC can sell the machine commercially.
Firstly, it reinforces educators' skepticism that this is
a laptop project and not an education project, and that
perception can kill the OLPC project.  You'll notice how
quickly Prof Negroponte hosed down commercial sales, and
he's the one doing the negotiations.

Secondly, it's not worth the effort. OLPC would need to
provide warranties, to package the machine in lots of
one, to provide repairs, etc, etc.  And after facing
all these costs if the OLPC is a successful seller Dell,
Acer, etc will cherry-pick the features into their machines
and OLPC won't see any long-run revenue.

The problem with not selling the machine commercially is
that it puts out of the running the commercial businesses
that currently support school IT, taking with it most of
the IT knowledge the school may have had.

I'm not sure how fair criticism of the machine's design
is. The last computer designed from the ground-up for schools
was the BBC Micro. That's an amazingly long time ago and maybe
no one knows what a schooling-specific computer should look
like anymore.

What does concern me is the grandness of the plan given the
uncertainty (which implies that iterative design, fielding and
evaluation is likely).  Certainly the UK was very lucky
that Acorn had a fine machine to offer as the BBC Micro.

Also worrying is the funding mechanism -- it looks like
OLPC are working with a number of development banks, which
is a bit odd as you'd think it would be the countries themselves
talking with the development banks.

The deal with Rwanda reads as though it is simply signing up as
a way to enter the Modern World, which is a bit cargo cultish.

> It's yet another example of the IT media's hero-syndrome. The merits of 
> an idea have nothing to do with anything: it's the personality, and "who 
> do you follow" (another current example is iPhone, which is now divided 
> along party-lines. I am the only Mac user I know who isn't already 
> counting the days until an Australian release).

Some of us own Mac hardware that has never run Apple software :-)

To give Apple credit, they do have good execution of good ideas. Not
necessarily their own ideas -- Creative existed before the iPod,
iRiver did a fine flash player before the iPod Mano, there were
small form factor PCs before the Mac Mini.  But the execution
of those ideas has been very fine in recent years.

And it looks like the iPhone might be the same. Nokia and Motorola
have really not done a great deal with the smartphone concept,
pretty much pandering to the network operator's visions of
expensive walled gardens. And there's no doubt that they've
been caught napping, first by RIM and now by Apple.

> The mischevious bit of me wonders whether it's a good idea,
> having someone in the third world receive their first contact
> with the first world via a request for tech support on a Linux
> list but there you go ... People tend to think of Westerners as
>  being smitten with superiority and patronising to the rest of
> the world, just wait until poor goatherd in a 2-hour-per-day
> school at the edge of a desert tries to ask a support question
> on a *nix wiki ...

I think the poor goatherd gets the last laugh when she later works
in a IT support call centre and makes redundant the cushy and overpaid
job of the Westerner :-)

Read Craigslist to see just how much the fine people of Silicon
Valley appreciate just a small amount of their business moving

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