- 4 Jan 08, 09:42 GMT
Sitting in Gatwick airport waiting for a flight to Las Vegas, news comes through that Intel has dropped out of the One Laptop Per Child Project.
To me and Jonathan Fildes, the BBC technology correspondent who has followed this more closely than just about any other reporter, this does not come as a great surprise.
We travelled to Nigeria in November to report on OLPC’s pilot project at a school there. We were impressed by the enthusiasm of the children using the laptops and the commitment of the teachers but were concerned that a lack of technical and financial support might stop the whole project from taking off. The children were showing remarkable ingenuity in mending broken laptops – but the bill for the internet connection was about to land on the head teacher’s desk and it wasn’t clear how it would be paid.
By contrast, across town, Intel was pouring large sums into a pilot of its rival Classmate project in a school which had been virtually rebuilt around the computers. The company insisted that it was collaborating with OLPC and had no desire to crowd it out of the new market for cheap computing in the developing world.
But Intel’s arrival as a participant in the charity project came very late, and after criticism that it was acting to frustrate the aims of OLPC. Now Intel has dropped out after OLPC reportedly demanded that it ended its involvement in the Classmate PC. Intel was never going to drop a project which had the personal backing of Craig Barret, Intel’s chairman, who’d visited the shiny new Nigerian school a few days before we filmed there.
OLPC was always going to face an uphill battle when confronted with a mighty corporation like Intel. Now it has suffered another crushing blow to its efforts to put what was supposed to be the $100 laptop in the hands of millions of children. Only last week chief designer Mary Lou Jepsen stepped down from the project.
We’ll be talking to the OLPC’s founder Nicholas Negroponte and to Intel’s Paul Otellini in Las Vegas.
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