Nicholas Negroponte, the MIT Media Lab director turned non-CEO of the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child project, is working with Amazon.com to start shipping out the green-and-white laptops that no one really wants to Europeans. It's been a year since they were first offered for sale in the United States via a buy-one-give-one-away program. Thus far OLPC has only sold about 600,000 of its machines. After a brief spurt of interest, most consumers have turned their attention to the cheap laptops known as "netbooks" instead. [BBC]
Programmer Richard Stallman's 25-year crusade to banish proprietary software from planet Earth hasn't had many victories. Most recently, One Laptop Per Child stabbed RMS in the face by replacing its Stallman-approved freeware with a Windows operating system. OLPC head Nicholas Negroponte, who originally backed a free-software configuration, believes it's a necessary compromise to sell the low-price laptops in a Windows-centric world. Stallman's response compares Negroponte to a drug dealer handing out free samples at the playground.
In a deal worth more than $3 billion, Venezuela has agreed to purchase 1 million mini-laptops from Portugal. The Intel-designed Classmate laptops were licensed to Portugal for manufacturing and are similar to Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project that Intel once backed. The Venezuela contract is bigger than all OLPC orders combined from the past two years. [International Herald Tribune]
Arrrrrrrrr! Readers who watched computer-display innovator Mary Lou Jepsen yesterday had only one question: WTF with the eye patch. I guessed at Jepsen's email address and asked her. It turns out we'll be seeing much more of Jepsen, but not the patch. The engineer, trained at MIT's Media Lab, left Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project to start her own for-profit venture, Pixel Qi, making affordable screens for all kinds of cheap, portable computers. She recently moved from Massachusetts to San Francisco. Jepsen's eye patch story:
Click to viewThe government whose Ministry of Education dismissed Nick Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child computer as "pedagogically suspect" in 2006 is now backing a plan to design, build and sell a model priced at 400 rupees, or about ten bucks. The project was discussed at a conference in New Delhi by D. Purandeshwari, Minister of State for Human Resources Development. It goes without saying that the price will be held down by a government subsidy. As former OLPC engineer Mary Lou Jepsen explains in a Big Think interview, countries might look to subsidize laptop costs with money intended for textbooks. Here's an idea for you Objectivists: Instead of criticizing India's nanny state, ask every Obama supporter you know when he's going to announce a One MacBook Per Child plan.
MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte had a vision: Millions of third-world children lacked laptops and therefore the means to learn of his greatness. He founded the One Laptop Per Child Project with a singular vision: He, Nicholas Negroponte, would bring laptops to these children, so that they could know that he, Nicholas Negroponte, brought laptops to them. An effort founded on egotism has foundered on egotism. Like attracts like; Negroponte brought other narcissists into the fold, only to see them leave to find more room for their self-loving to expand. Mary Lou Jepsen, OLPC's hardware chief, left in January to start a for-profit company, Pixel Qi; now Walter Bender, OLPC's former head of software who left in April, has started a rival for-the-children effort.
Nicholas Negroponte, the nutty MIT professor who has championed the idea of cheap laptops for Third World children, is feuding with his own programmers. Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child is best known for its distinctive hardware — the candy-colored, devil-horn-antennaed XO notebook computer. But he's turned his attention to Sugar, the Linux-based software which runs on the XO. Negroponte, cozying up to Microsoft, wants Sugar to be rewritten for Windows. Great idea, says OLPC developer C. Scott Ananian — hire 10 Windows developers right away, suspend all other software development, and maybe it will happen.
Nicholas Negroponte has come to his senses and realized that he is not a businessman and has no place running the One Laptop Per Child project. "I am not a CEO. Management, administration, and details are my weaknesses. I'm much better at the vision, big-picture side of the house." Yeah, leave the minutae like making a profit and shipping products on time to someone else, and focus on things like going to conferences and schmoozing with Bono. Negroponte's ideal CEO? Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who will "view the world as a mission, not a market." Ah yes. When I think of successfully run, profitable businesses, I immediately think of the UN. Bravo. Whatever. This guy is an academic, what do you expect? Next thing you know, he'll be asking Al Gore to come on board. OLPC critic and Steve Jobs impersonator Dan Lyons has much more to say about this latest development.
Mary Lou Jespen, founding CTO of the One Laptop Per Child project, recently walked off her job at Nicholas Negroponte's charity case. And now she wants to build a $75 version of the laptop that OLPC has struggled to build for $200. But Jespen may be crazy like a fox. She's actually building a business — the insanity! — called Pixel Qi to further her goals.
"Why would I throw away the six million dollars they were supposed to give us yesterday? Why would I do all of these things unless I was stark raving mad?" — MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte, trying to defend the One Laptop Per Child charity's contentious and short-lived partnership with chip manufacturer Intel. Thanks for clearing that up, Nicky. [BBC]
From the Wall Street Journal: "Intel says it no longer will support One Laptop Per Child, and has resigned from the board over the nonprofit's demand that it stop selling its Classmate laptop and other laptops in the developing world. Intel says it has canceled plans for an Intel-based OLPC laptop."
Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project has seemingly listed a job opening for a business-plan writer. It's a bit suspect: The position is listed in Mountain View, but the $100-laptop nonprofit is based in Cambridge, Mass. Even if it's just a clever joke, it does raise a question: Has anyone ever written a real business plan for this venture? From the results, it wouldn't seem so.
Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project may be better named "No Laptop Per Child," at the rate it's going. Back in November, the Wall Street Journal essentially labeled the project a failure. Now, the group is being sued for $20 million by a Nigerian company for patent infringement. Let's hope OLPC doesn't get hit for the full amount. At almost $200 each, the judgment would be equal to more than 100,000 laptops — laptops that the OLPC can't give away, never mind sell. A copy of the lawsuit, obtained exclusively by Valleywag, is after the jump.
"Think of how cool it would be! Think of how many families will get to experience the friendly spam-ridden Information Super Ad-way laced with Nigerian scams, hoaxes, porn, blogs, wikis, spam, urban folklore, misinformation, sites selling junk from China, bomb-making instructions, jihad initiatives, communist propaganda, Nazi propaganda, exhortations, movie clips of cats playing the piano, advertising, advertising, and more advertising. Do you now feel better about the world's problems, knowing that some poor tribesman's child has a laptop? What African kid doesn't want access to Slashdot?" — Professional contrarian John Dvorak on MIT do-gooder Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project. But John, think of the potential new readers for your column! [PC Magazine]
One Laptop Per Child founder Nicholas Negroponte set himself up for Saturday's takedown by the Wall Street Journal. As my good friend Fake Steve Jobs author Dan Lyons explains in detail, the Journal article is a classic backstab: (1) Negroponte pitches Journal a big story that evil Intel and Microsoft are undermining his world-saving mission. (2) Journal gets Negroponte to talk and talk and talk while they interview potential customers around the world. (3) Journal runs story that Negroponte is a well-meaning idiot when it comes to making and selling PCs, rather than just having big brainstorms about them. Intel and Microsoft can and will implement St. Nick's idea better than he's done himself. As Fake Steve says, boo friggin hoo. Did I mention Fake Steve and I are friends?
Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal devoted nearly 3,000 words to the saga of Nicholas Negroponte's plan: "Design a $100 laptop and, within four years, get it into the hands of up to 150 million of the world's poorest schoolchildren." What went wrong? "Mr. Negroponte's ambitious plan has been derailed, in part, by the power of his idea." Huh?
Gilberto Gil, Brazil's Minister of Culture, is retiring. Medical tests revealed a polyp on his vocal cords which could threaten his musical career. Gil needs to quit giving speeches while the polyp is being treated. Which is unfortunate, because he has quite a bit to say. Gil is the man who turned down Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project in Brazil. We got the chance to meet the minister at the EmTech conference in September. I was struck by how, unlike many politicians who promise the world and deliver nothing, Gil seemed aware of the significant shortcomings of the OLPC project. We wish him the best.
Chinese manufacturing firm Quanta has started to mass produce a
$100 $188 notebook computer for the One Laptop Per Child project. Nicholas Negroponte, the head of OLPC, claims 250,000 machines will be built this year, with 1 million a month being built in 2008. And if you believe that, Negroponte's got a $100 laptop to sell you. [AP]
Nicholas Negroponte, the MIT Media Lab director turned philanthropist turned businessman, has learned when not to be pedantic. For example, take his shifting stance on open source. He once believed that One Laptop Per Child, would have to run open-source software on its cheap machines for third-world schoolchildren. The charity once declined free copies of Mac OS X, because it was proprietary to Apple, and considered it a mark of honor that Microsoft was annoyed at being excluded from the laptop project. Now, according to Negroponte, "It would be hard for OLPC to say it was 'open' and then be closed to Microsoft. Open means open." Except, of course, when it doesn't.
Updated. MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte has insisted that his One Laptop Per Child program is a charity that will only sell its wares to governments of developing nations. So who convinced him it was okay to sell the device to consumers in the United States and Canada at twice the price? Why, Negroponte pal Jeff Bezos, who knows a little bit about selling and marketing. Not only did the Amazon.com founder convince the philanthropist to turn his charity into a business, he convinced him that the best way to market the cute laptops was to turn them into a status symbol for the wealthy elite — a symbol on the order of Lance Armstrong's iconic yellow Livestrong bracelets, which is where Bezos really got the idea.