Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Intel backs out of OLPC

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, at the weekend suffered another set following the withdrawal of its partnership by a foremost ally, Intel Corporation.

Intel in the dramatic withdrawal cited ‘philosophical’ differences as its main reason for backing out of the project proposed to make laptops available for pupils in developing countries including Nigeria.

Nigeria currently is having trail of some OLPC machines at the various nationwide and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The laptops were initially slated to cost $100 per PC but have since escalated to over $200, about (N28,000), even as Federal Government recently expressed dismay over the modules of producing the so-called $100 laptops and eventual turning the country schools into dumping ground.

According to BBC reports on Sunday, Intel pulled out of the project through its hitherto funding and technical support.

The report also said that Intel’s withdrawal from OLPC is a big blow, which has found few nations willing to buy large numbers of the laptops.

Noteworthy is that the first versions of the OLPC or XO laptop were powered by a chip made by Intel’s arch-rival AMD.

The green and white XO machine was designed specifically for children, and supposedly made rugged to cope with conditions in developing nations and could be kept powered using a hand crank.

Further, BBC reported that Intel spokesman, Mr. Chuck Molly said it had taken the decision to resign from the OLPC board and end its involvement because the organisation had asked it to stop backing rival low-cost laptops.

On the OLPC board with Intel are 11 other companies including Google and Red Hat.

The chip maker has been promoting its own cheap laptop, the Classmate PC, in many of the same places as the OLPC.

“OLPC had asked Intel to end our support for non-OLPC platforms, including the Classmate PC, and to focus on the OLPC platform exclusively,” Mr Chuck said, adding that at the end of the day, Intel decided it could not accommodate that request.

He equally said that the use of AMD chips in the first XO laptops had not influenced its decision.

Prior to Intel’s involvement, OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte criticised the chip firm for what he called its attempts to undermine the project’s work.

He said Intel was selling its Classmate PC at a loss to make the XO laptop less attractive.

While Dr Negroponte’s initial aim was for a laptop costing only $100, the final versions under-going trials in Nigeria and Uruguay cost $188 (£95).

Costs were supposed to be kept low by governments ordering the XO laptop in shipments of one million, but large orders for the XO laptop have, so far, not materialised.

In a bid to boost the numbers of laptops available, OLPC ran a “Give One, Get One” programme in the US from 12 November to 31 December.

This allowed members of the public to buy two XO machines - one for themselves and one for a OLPC project elsewhere.

OLPC said the success of this had helped it to launch programmes in Haiti, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Afghanistan.

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