Intel leaves One Laptop behind

It is with tear welling in eye that I note Intel has severed ties with One Laptop Per Child, a project to deliver cheap laptops to children in developing countries, a development that really should shock no one.

With both hulla and ballou last July, the chipmaker and OLPC announced Intel was joining the board of the project and would work with OLPC to develop cheap laptop technology. Never mind that OLPC was already pushing the XO, an AMD-based laptop, nor that Intel was offering a competing computer, though at twice the price, in the Classmate.

It’s ended in tears and recriminations, with Intel citing “irreconcilable differences” and OLPC chair Nicholas Negroponte rumbling that Intel never put anything into the relationship. They just couldn’t stay together, even for the children’s sake (cue sappy music).

In any relationship, to quote Frank Nitti in the short-lived TV ressurection of The Untouchables in the late ’80’s, there’s three sides to every story, Al: Yours, mine and the truth. Truth is both sides should have known from the start it was an arrangment unlikely to work out; while Negroponte wanted Intel to collaborate on the XO and ditch the Classmate, Intel’s prenup — okay, actually a fact sheet on its Web site, still available at the time of this writing — Intel insists it “(will maintain) its commitment to the Intel-powered classmate PC. The classmate PC is receiving strong support from governments, educators and students worldwide and will continue to evolve and benefit from the Intel-OLPC collaboration.”

The exchange of pleasantries is getting uglier by the minute, with Negroponte dancing around the “S” word (sabotage; sorry, it was a little obscure) but plainly contemptuous telling one outlet that “we view the children as a mission, Intel views them as a market.”


Anecdotally, it sounds like Intel may have the bigger footprint in the mis- — uh, sorry, market — but the XO’s getting the better reviews at half the price.

PC World ranked the XO third on its list of most innovative products of 2007, and though I’ve not got my hands on one, the feature list includes peer networking over Wi-Fi, which my $1,700 Toshiba can’t do.

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