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OLPC : The laptop which changed the world

Nearly three years have passed since Nicholas Negroponte sketched the idea of a USD 100 laptop for poor school children at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Ever since and according to a Wall Street Journal article (opens in new tab), the OLPC has had a rocky journey.

Negroponte certainly downplayed the role and the political clout of the Wintel alliance; the market capitalisation of Intel and Microsoft combined is USD 452 bn; that more than the GDP of countries like Poland or Taiwan.

Both Intel and Microsoft supremos initially discarded the OLPC as being little more than a toy but then they moved a gear up when they saw the inroads made by the project.

Intel has been particularly active at killing off the OLPC project as pointed out by Charbax Blog (opens in new tab).

The Classmate laptop which Intel has been keen in promoting gave birth to the Asus EEE, a GBP 200 sub laptop, which costs 80 percent less than the competition.

The prospect of potentially seeing one billion users moving away to the enemy (Linux and AMD) was sufficient enough for Intel and Microsoft to incur potential losses in order to capture these markets.

A BBC news article even suggests that politicians were unwilling to take the big plunge because "change equals risk".

The problem though (opens in new tab) is that Politicians are purchasing laptops but not the one built by the Negroponte gang.

But Negroponte himself seems uncertain of the future of OLPC as he declares that "My goal is not selling laptops. OLPC is not in the laptop business. It's in the education business."

All the arguing and debating about the OLPC should not obliterate (opens in new tab) the fact that the OLPC has been the ultimate catalyst that caused Intel and Microsoft to commit to cheaper and more accessible technologies.

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.