[Sugar-devel] Private vs Public conversations.

John Watlington wad at laptop.org
Thu Oct 31 23:01:38 EDT 2013

On Oct 31, 2013, at 2:10 PM, Sameer Verma wrote:

> On Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 9:04 AM, David Farning
> <dfarning at activitycentral.com> wrote:
>> I just wanted to bump this line of questions as, it is the critical
>> set of questions which will determine the future viability of Sugar.
>> If anyone as more informed, please correct me if I am sharing
>> incorrect information:
>> 1. The Association has dropped future development of XO laptops and
>> Sugar as part of their long term strategy. I base this on the
>> reduction of hardware and software personal employed by the
>> Association.
>> 2. The Association is reducing its roll within the engineering and
>> development side of the ecosystem. I base this on the shift toward
>> integrating existing technology, software, and content from other
>> vendors on the XO tablet.

The Association continues to have an engineering effort, but it has been
completely outsourced (mostly to MorphOSS) and almost entirely concentrated
on the "XO Learning Software" for the tablet for the last six months.

>> 3. The Association is shifting away from its initial roll as a
>> technical philanthropy to a revenue generating organization structured
>> as a association. I base this on the general shift in conversations
>> and decisions from public to private channels.

I have no knowledge about points 1 and 3.

> My understanding of the XO Tablet project was that it was designed as
> a revenue generator ($x per unit sale goes to OLPC A) so that work on
> the XO-4 could continue. In my own conversations with OLPCA, I was
> always reassured that the XO continues to be the pedagogical machine.
> However, I'm not seeing the evidence to that end from OLPCA. Pretty
> much all the staff that worked on the XO are either laid off or have
> quit.
> There were other conversations at OLPC SF Summit, where the concern
> was that OLPCA is quietly trying to convert requests for XO-4
> purchases into XO Tablet purchases. I've raised this issue of device
> cannibalization with OLPCA. If the real plan is to keep both lines
> going, then the devices should have separate marketing and sales
> plans. Keep in mind that the XO4 has had close to zero marketing, and
> all the media I see about OLPC these days usually positions the XO
> Tablet as the new thing.
> Today's Wired article makes the intentions clearer:
> http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-10/31/olpc-and-datawind-tablet

> However, if all that OLPC remains is a vendor of cheap, proprietary
> Android tablets wrapped in green silicone, then what motivation
> remains to continue to plug for it? We all have different motivations
> for working on this project. I'd like to hear more from others.

OLPC was never about making cheap products --- it was about making a
good product at the lowest possible cost.   The Vivitar (XO) Tablet and the software
associated with it are a complete departure from OLPC's previous engineering
practices (and despite the marketing, had no input from the then-existing OLPC team.)
Unfortunately, as you point out, there is little effort to market the XO-4 and instead
a bewildering push to sell the Vivitar (XO) Tablet to large deployments despite its
unsuitability for such.    OLPC and I parted ways at the end of September.

There are plenty of vendors of cheap Android tablets.  Perhaps Walter is right
that this is the time to concentrate on providing software designed for
collaborative, joyful, advertising-free, self-empowered learning, in a hardware
independent manner.   The seven years since OLPC started have seen a huge
improvement in MIPS/Watt and MIPS/$, making the hardware independent
approach (Python, Java, HTML5) an even better approach.


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