It was announced late last week that Intel Co. has withdrawn its affiliation from the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) program, the affordable laptop program spearheaded by Nicholas Negroponte. According to an Associated Press release on January 3, Intel’s decision to withdraw was due to a “philosophical impasse,” though some speculate another issue might be a conflict of interest as Intel is developing its own laptop for developing countries, the Classmate PC.
According to the AP release, OLPC had asked Intel to stop supporting the Classmate PC and focus their resources on the OLPC; Intel was not willing to make that sacrifice.
“The standing agreement was that Intel was going to join us in our mission to help educate the world’s children, and part of that agreement was that they would work with us on software, hardware, learning, anything and everything,” says Walter Bender, president of software and content for OLPC. “Intel didn’t want to join in a cooperative fashion, which is unfortunate because this is a big problem and we need everybody to join in to beat this problem.”
According to Bender, Intel has criticized the OLPC organization for being anti-competitive in a developing market and industry. “Our mission is getting laptops out to these kids, not getting a particular laptop out to these kids,” says Bender. “There’s a big difference between objections to competition versus objections to unfair competition.”
The solution Intel was proposing for the XO laptop and the OLPC would have been more expensive. “Not going the Intel route will make it less expensive and more power-efficient, so it’s a net positive in terms of cost,” says Bender.
OLPC currently uses an AMD processor inside its XO laptop. “OLPC was and is agnostic about what processor is inside the box,” says Bender. “We’re not agnostic about other things like cost, power consumption and environmental robustness, etc; I don’t know a kid who cares it’s Intel inside.” According to the AP release, Intel’s decision to abandon the project had nothing to do with the fact that the OLPC used AMD processors in its machines.
AMD is a direct competitor of Intel and also one of the many high-profile partners of OLPC along with Redhat, Google, eBay, NewsCorp, SES Astra, Marvell and others. “We’re pleased that the industry is starting to take this space seriously because there’s a great need there and the more people competing in this space, the better,” says Bender.
“It would be great if Intel was aligned with our mission and I hope that even if they don’t want to work with us they’ll still work toward the same goals.”
Intel was not available for comment.