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Who wants to kill the OLPC project?

However, the project has lost some buzz and It is hard not to think that there's a global neo-conspiracy to harm the OLPC project.

Nicholas Negroponte might be a technical whiz but neither him, nor the whole team behind this project, can withstand that marketing clout of tech giants Microsoft and Intel.

Both Microsoft and Intel are guilty of causing FUCD (Fear, Uncertainly, Confusion and Doubt) both in the minds of the OLPC team, their prospective customers and the tech audience.

For example, Microsoft (opens in new tab)has been arduously courting OLPC to make sure that the Windows Operating system is not excluded from any OLPC plans - a move that has been condemned by many. (opens in new tab)

But at the same time it has demoed its own unified platform dubbed the Foneplus (opens in new tab) (which allows people to connect their phones to a keyboard and a TV) and has announced back in April 2007 that it will sell (opens in new tab) the Windows Operating System and Microsoft Office suite for £1.50 (cheaper than some pirated copies) to third world and emerging Governments.

As for Intel, it had been publicly accused in May 2007 by Nicolas Negroponte of trying to sabotage the project by launching a rival laptop project, the Classmate.

Intel has since joined the OLPC project although it was not disclosed why they did not do so earlier on.

The Classmate is powered by a Windows Operating system and an Intel processor and The OLPC uses an AMD processor and a Linux Operating System instead.

Another project that seems to have been kick-started in direct response to the OLPC project is Asus' EEE laptop (opens in new tab) which started its life as a Classmate project and shipped in record time (6 months from announcement to delivery).

So there we are. Microsoft trying to do some spread-betting and Intel operating a divide and rule strategy, which have a direct effect on the OLPC project.

OLPC laptops prices have nearly doubled in the past months due to smaller orders and scarce resources.

The latter is caused by the growing demands for laptop parts, with Classmate and EEE laptops taking some responsibility for that.

As for smaller orders... well, the Classmate has been selling pretty well to former would-be OLPC customers (like Libya and Nigeria).

The conclusion of all this is a vicious circle where the price of the OLPC rises well above the original aims (demand vs. supply) while competitors come up with similarly priced products to woe customers away and cause FUCD.

One has to ask why cheap laptops have not been produced en masse until now (when this was doable before) and why the EEE for example features advanced technologies found only in expensive laptops (Ultra small size and SSD) and is sold for a third of the price it would normally fetch.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.