[Olpc-open] Why is G1G1 program ending?

Steve Holton sph0lt0n at gmail.com
Fri Dec 28 19:18:28 EST 2007

On Dec 28, 2007 4:57 PM, Seth Woodworth <seth at isforinsects.com> wrote:

> I am working with three different non-profits in the US who would like to
> do small scale classroom size implementations via G1G1.  But they can't get
> funding together or the projects in place in time (November > December).
> That isn't realistic for NP's in the US.
> Implementations like this are really what we should be focusing on the in
> US.  They are in a valuable position to provide implementation feedback and
> grassroots cheer leading domestically.

Exactly. But you're talking a XOEE project- XO's for education.  For OLPC
this is the core mission and  OLPC is distracted from it at their own peril.

I can imagine the difficulty raising $12K to put 30 XO into a single
classroom. Perhaps there's a better model.
The XO is perfect for homeschoolers, and I'm planning to run a pilot myself
as soon as I get my hardware.
$1200 is within budget for most families fortunate enough to be able to get
by on a single income.
But what would be the point of convincing other homeschooling families of
the benefits of XO collaboration if there's no way for them to get into the
program?  It would be viewed as gloating, and *not* a promoted behavior in
those circles. Hence the necessity for growth hardware.

With 3 XO's and 3 kids, if one becomes 'special' due to malfunctioning or
dead hardware, I've already got problems. With two down, 'collaboration'
becomes meaningless.  I.e. must have access to spares.

Without growth and spares, the XO hacker community size becomes *frozen* Dec
31. Few will be interested in 'getting into' XO development if they can't
get a system to work on. I don't have stats, but I get a sense the number of
clued hackers who are actively involved in XO exploration and development
has skyrocketed since G1G1 was announced. I know there was only mild
interest in the XO when demo'd to TriLUG  (Triangle Linux User's Group) at
Red Hat a year ago, and the usual question (where can I get one) and
response (you can't) was a turn-off.  Why bother.

The availability of hardware is the one of the last chokepoints which would
> > allow an adversary to kill-off the OLPC mission and North American success.
> > (The other is mission creep: changing the OLPC mission from one of
> > developing an educational platform into one of competing in the North
> > American laptop computer market.) And the adversaries know this.
> >
> > The market price point is proven.
> > The community is proven.
> > The infrastructure problems (a huge hurdle) for distribution channel,
> > customer service, support, etc. have been largely worked through. (quite to
> > my own disbelief)
> With no small amount of help from you Steve.  Which should be noted.
> The price point isn't too bad.  And it is providing machines for other
> nations at a very fast pace.  Perhaps if an external company were to retail
> the machines at a similar price point it might take the strain off of OLPC.
> This company would want a margin of their own of course, which would take
> away from children too.  But such is the cost of a well oiled machine.

I don't think a commercial market, business school analysis is appropriate
here. Any price above cost-of-goods will grow the market. A 2x COG (as in
G1G1) grows the market double, if the market will support it, which it does.
If OLPC remains a player at the G1G1 price point, it creates a market floor
with plenty of margin for external companies, encouraging them to enter.

Remember, the OLPC mission is not profit, first mover advantage, or monopoly
rents through lock-in; it's all about market penetration.

The next chokepoint would be to drain the market of hardware through:
> > - natural attrition of hardware failures.
> > - tying-up the manufacturing facilities by offering lucrative contracts
> > to Quanta to build something else.
> > - market removal (buying-up systems offered on eBay, offering a trade-in
> > allowance, etc).
> >
> > As long as OLPC can maintain the availability of spare parts and new
> > systems for growth, both the XONA (XO North America, using the XO as a
> > laptop computer) and the XOEE (XO Educational Endeavor) will grow.
> >
> > This could be accomplished:
> > - short term:  make a committment to the availability of new systems and
> > spares (price point is unimportant, enthusiasts being what they are) through
> > an 'Official OLPC program'.
> > - long term: multi-source hardware availability.
> Agreed.  I want an extra screen to hack anyway.
> >
> > However, the hard part of building the infrastructure to ship 1 system
> > to 1,000,000 different people has largely been built. Sunk cost at this
> > point.
> >
> Logical fallacy.  Just because you've sunk a bunch of money into
> something, if it sucks you should still go with what works better.
> The structures are getting better.  But they aren't satisfying "Gimme
> Cheap/free laptop now that works k thxs by" users.  Not that we're trying to
> serve them, but *they* think that we are, and they are restless because of
> it.

Tactical mistake on our part. Marketing the XO as a laptop computer puts us
into direct competition  with Microsoft, Intel, ASUS, etc.  And we have to
compete against them on their own turf. Is it any wonder they dig out
talking heads from the *technology* sector (Dvorak, etc.) to discuss the
failings of the XO as a laptop computer, and the inappropriateness of
sending laptop computers to starving kids in Africa?

On the other hand, if OLPC made a policy of discussing ONLY the educational,
non-profit nature of the XO, and discussing it ONLY in an educational
context, refusing to refer to the XO as a "laptop", etc. the discussion
would have to take place in educational and non-profit forums; places where
the direct competition can't even have  a voice unless they are donating
money to the project.

And the XONA hacker community wouldn't be distracted for a moment.

3.) They need to stop G1G1 in the US and Canada so they can start to scale
> > > up for Europe and Asia G1G1 sales.
> >
> >
> > Europe and Asia deserve a chance to G1G1, too. (A mistake, IMHO, to try
> > to exclude them from G1G1, but there may have been logistical considerations
> > I don't understand) But if making them available in Europe comes at the cost
> > of availability in North America, I'm going to be arranging to purchase my
> > spares through GreyMarketEurope.
> >
> Many logisitical considerations.  Many many as I understand.  They
> *should* be overcome sooner than later.  And I think that OLPC has dropped
> the ball and explaining that fact to it's users.
I wonder how much of the North America G1G1 infrastructure can be utilized
directly by a G1G1 Europe rollout? Certainly things like the wiki, bugs
discovered, failure modes, etc, but possibly also email/web based service
and support  staff and such.

Steve Holton
sph0lt0n at gmail.com
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