The New York Times ran a fascinating article today about the feud between Intel and the One Latop Per Child program run by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte. If you haven’t heard about it, the initiative is intended to develop a reasonably priced ($200) laptop for primary school children in the third world. The model they’re selling now comes with a lot of cool features: mesh technology so a group of students can share one wifi connection; low power consumption and the ability to recharge batteries with solar cells or even a hand crank; a linux operating system and open source software.
I suspect that last feature is causing the biggest problem for Intel. According to the Times, company sales reps actually tried to persuade several countries to ditch the OLPC in favor of a more expensive machine running Microsoft Windows. I don’t know about you but I have a hard time imagining disadvantaged Peruvian first-graders keeping up with their security updates, troubleshooting the less-than-stellar Windows wifi utility or shelling out for that upgrade to Vista.
Maybe those kids need other things more than they need laptops, but it can’t hurt. In any case it’s hard to believe how badly Intel managed this saga in terms of public relations. Think of the children, guys!