ARTICLE DATE: 07.13.07
In a surprise move on Friday, Intel announced that it has joined Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) non-profit organization, and will contribute both technology and educational content to the initiative in the future.
The OLPC—made up of corporate members such as AMD, Brightstar, Chi Lin, eBay, Google, Marvell, Quanta Computer, and others—aims to provide low-cost, rugged laptops to children living in the world's most remote and poorest countries. Most recently, the initiative has struggled to produce those laptops and announced that shipments of its Quanta-made XO notebooks would be delayed until the fourth quarter of 2007. A representative for the initiative cited design changes meant to improve the notebook's performance as the reason for the delay.
Intel's decision to join the initiative marks a distinct turnabout for the company. Indeed, the chip maker has gone from competing with OLPC with its "learning-assistant" Classmate PC just a few months ago to being a full-fledged member of the OLPC board today. Possibly owing to that competition, tensions between the two philanthropic initiatives have historically run high.
Intel's chairman, Craig Barrett, publicly disparaged Negroponte's OLPC program when it was first announced, saying that Negroponte should call his program's XO laptop a "$100 gadget," and not a computer. That comment underscored the differences in approach between the two initiatives, with Intel believing that underprivileged children were best served with something that has the full functionality of a PC, something reprogrammable to run all the applications of a grown-up PC, and a product that was geared toward classroom learning.
OLPC, on the other hand, emphasized the individual child and teaching children to use technology in new ways. While Intel's Classmate PC is specifically designed for students in a classroom setting, Negroponte has said that the OLPC project centers more on the child's experience and personal development beyond the classroom—incorporating open-source technology and wiki-type functionality.
This past May, Negroponte lashed back at Intel in a 60 Minutes interview, saying that the company should be ashamed of itself and was undermining the initiative's progress by using philanthropy as a shameless and divisive PR tool.
Now, though, it appears both sides have reconciled their differences.
Negroponte said on Friday that the addition of Intel to the OLPC means that the maximum number of laptops will now reach children, while Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel, said that his company's decision would further enhance its educational efforts around the world.
Intel reps said the company will continue to develop its Classmate PC program.