bbc.co.uk Navigation

Rory Cellan-Jones

Networking with Negroponte

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 9 Jan 08, 04:52 GMT

Just before we sat down for an interview in his suite on the 28th floor of the Las Vegas Hilton, Nicholas Negroponte got up and popped out into the corridor to have a word with someone. The founder of One Laptop Per Child wanted to catch Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, as he passed by with his entourage. The two men have met many times, and Negroponte describes the Rwandan president as one of the few world leaders who really understands IT.

In his mission to sell his vision of a little laptop which could transform education in the developing world, Nicholas Negroponte has been a tireless networker, charming and badgering politicians from Lagos to Lima. He had just flown in from Mexico, where he has been trying to seal a deal to sell more XO laptops. Yet in recent months he has been struggling against a tide of mounting criticism of his project, and you sense that the bust-up with Intel has been the most aggravating episode of all.

His PR minder had told us he would only answer one question about Intel, but he answered four before we moved on. And in that time there was some strong stuff. He accused Intel of behaving like a cheating spouse in repeatedly pushing its classmate laptop and badmouthing the XO. It is a charge which the chipmaker rejects with contempt.

Off camera, Mr Negroponte was also pretty cheesed off with some of those who built up the XO laptop and are now knocking it down. A couple of reviewers had been unkind about the XO laptop, complaining that it was slow, and touch-typing was a challenge. He grumbled that it was aimed at kids, not fat-fingered old journalists.

Then his mood brightened when I told him about one young fan of the laptop. When I filmed in Nigeria in November OLPC volunteers gave me an early prototype to bring home to my 9-year-old son. Rufus got the hang of it much more quickly than I had, and supplied an enthusiastic review for the BBC website.

The trouble is, it isn’t the likes of Rufus who’ll make Mr Negroponte’s laptop a success. He needs to convince a lot more African and Latin American governments that they can afford what is still a pretty hefty investment in computers in schools. And whatever you think of Intel’s motives, it is training teachers and supporting the spread of computing in the developing world. In the end, a mighty corporation with a professional marketing operation may have a better chance of achieving that mission than the world’s best digital networker.

Comments

Is this story really true, if it is it's disgusting that intel would do such a thing.

Intel isn't interested in marketing cheap laptops in developping countries or developped countries. The only thing Intel is interested in, is to stop OLPC from taking over the worldwide PC/Laptop market and giving AMD and other processor manufacturers much more influence on the future trends in the PC/Laptop industry.

Truth is, we are currently ruled by an Intel/Microsoft monopoly in terms of which X86 hardware/software platform should be the standard in the industry.

Now that a much cheaper X86 paltform is being introduced by OLPC consuming 5 times less power than a conventional Intel/Microsoft machine, this can change a whole Industry over the course of a very few months and Intel does not want that to happen.

  • 3.
  • At 11:10 AM on 09 Jan 2008,
  • Ben Sphinx wrote:

So, you're saying you TOOK an XO from Nigeria? And Nicholas was happy with that? ;)

  • 4.
  • At 04:27 PM on 09 Jan 2008,
  • Jim Kelly wrote:

I think that what Mr Negroponte has achieved so far is amazing and perhaps one day his efforts will be given the credit and thanks that they are due.

Why doesn't the British Government order several 100,000 of his machines and give those to the children of the 3rd world ?
Doing that would
a) ensure that the foreign aid money does not end up as bullets or in some Swiss back account
b) give the OLPC program a much needed boost.

  • 5.
  • At 06:57 PM on 09 Jan 2008,
  • tim davies wrote:

it looks like at the other end of the scale ther is growth in personal supercomputers at ces in las vagas
www.tycrid.com

3 teraflops wow

  • 6.
  • At 12:43 AM on 10 Jan 2008,
  • Christy wrote:

Having experienced what Intel does when they get their hands on a non-profit, I'd say OLPC is better off.

  • 7.
  • At 04:21 AM on 10 Jan 2008,
  • nick wrote:

It's a shame that in addition to the poorest areas, this laptop isn't made available to europe and america. Not as something where they buy one for themselves and one for someone in latin america/africa, but on equal terms. The poor in the UK are not less deserving than the poor elsewhere, and if it were offered in europe, it might very well become trendy, something that all would use like the bowler hat. And it would also more likely reach its production goals.

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

BBC.co.uk