[Olpc-open] [Edu-sig] OLPC G1G1 sales start today

François Schnell francois.schnell at gmail.com
Wed Nov 14 17:24:58 EST 2007

On Nov 13, 2007 5:31 PM, John Kintree <jkintree at swbell.net> wrote:
> On Tuesday 13 November 2007 05:24 am, François Schnell wrote:
> > Isn't it obvious that if OLPC let all passionate people *buy* the
> > laptop the project will have much more contributions?
> You could be right, Francois.  Maybe the OLPC project is being anal about
> selling the XO laptop.
> On the other hand, it was idealism that provided the inspiration for the
> project in the first place.  That idealism is deeply rooted in the desire to
> give preferential treatment to the children in developing countries who until
> now have mostly been left on the lacking side of the digital divide.

I fully adhere to this 'idealism' and that's why I can't passively
watch the suicidal behaviour of the current distribution scheme,
precisely for the sake of the children the OLPC aims to reach and

Nicholas Negroponte rightly explained that it is necessary to have
millions of orders to approach the 100$ price tag and reach a maximum
of children.

Today we know this is not happening with the current distribution
scheme (through only a few governments) and competition with other
projects makes the situation worse everyday.

Fortunately the XO is an incredible machine and the millions of sales
could happen through the growth of an ecosystem/community with a  non
discriminatory distribution scheme.

So, why is the OLPC choosing not to change its distribution strategy
(which keeps the price of the XO high) and thus deprive millions of
children in developing countries of this powerful educational  "tool
to think with" (as Papert describes)?

What variable(s) am I missing in the equation here?
Maybe to "avoid theft" because only a poor child should be seen with
one? too late, with the G1G1 operation this last argument doesn't
stand anymore.

> I notice that while the G1G1 initiative has gotten good coverage in technical
> publications, there was almost no mention of it on Nov. 12 in the mainstream
> media.

This is not surprising in view of the present distribution scheme.
In contrast the Eee get lots of coverage in traditional media.
In consequence their ecosystem is growing quickly (beyond alpha-geeks)
to include parents, children and teachers. Teachers who will be able
to influence their hierarchy possibly up to the top of their

ASUS is not officially in the educational business, they probably
won't contact governments directly. Thanks to the OLPC "suicidal"
behavior, ASUS just need to wait for the decision makers to come to
them to buy millions of additional units (Eee, classmate,
whatever...); orders which the OLPC needs to reach its "idealism"

>That may be reasonable considering that those who are most likely to
> participate in the G1G1 initiative are technically oriented people.  This may
> be the revolution of the geeks.

Yes but "the revolution of the geeks"  is not OLPC's goal (ask Negroponte).
OLPC is *potentially* a revolutionary "educational project" ("not a
laptop project").  But for this it needs to eventually, maybe,
hopefully, one day, reach enough children. We're definitely not taking
this direction with the current distribution scheme.

I urge OLPC for a re-evaluation of the situation with regard to the
changed and  now rapidly evolving global landscape.

I can understand if OLPC made some background deals of non
proliferation to have the best prices possible.
But I believe even Quanta (and others partners) can understand this
new situation (it's in their interests) and should just re-evaluate.

Obviously Quanta could launch their own modified version of the XO but
if the hardware/software specs are significantly different the
contributions won't go to the OLPC project (and the developing
countries' children) but to the "consumers" Quanta fork.

>  At the least, IMHO, the G1G1 initiative is
> an experiment that is worth conducting.

Yes I fully agree but it is just sad it is so limited in time and in space:

"Give One Get One" is the only time we are making the revolutionary XO
laptop available to the public.

> Might the XO laptop be an example of a technology that is "insanely great?"
> It's so advanced that it may reshape our notion and our experience of
> reality.

Yes but the goal of the project, as explained by Negroponte, is not
about technology "insanely great" or alpha-geeks showing their "cool"
new toys to their colleagues.

It is an educational project *supported by* technology (in particular
in the way Papert and kay describe) and I believe that's a true chance
for the children, the future of their countries and hopefully the
world as a whole.

Unfortunately with this distribution scheme OLPC is not just fighting
the digital divide it also introduces another one as kids from
developed countries will never use similar educational tools. The XO
is not just a laptop, it's also an incredible symbol of commitment and
help to the developing countries which could have been a true bridge
between children and teachers from the "North" and "South".
But instead, the OLPC distribution scheme will limit its influence to
a few developing countries. So kids from the "North" and their
teachers won't be able to build common activities (and understanding
about each other) on a educational platform they will never

>Let's see what happens next.

The best way to avoid a danger is to know its existence.
So, only kamikaze people don't re-evaluate the situation when rushing
towards the wall.

If OLPC wants a suicidal final party its their right, its their
machine after all.
I just find it sad for the children it claimed to help.

Or maybe OLPC was just a very successful academic "proof of concept".
I hope not.


> Regards,
> John Kintree
> http://home.swbell.net/jkintree/islt/
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> Olpc-open at lists.laptop.org
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