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LINUX-L  2007

LINUX-L 2007

Subject:

Re: OLPC...

From:

Gavin Baker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Platform Independent Linux List! <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 20 Dec 2007 18:04:32 -0500

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> From:    "Allen S. Rout" <[log in to unmask]>
>>> On Mon, 17 Dec 2007 14:55:59 -0500, Ward Lindsey <[log in to unmask]> said:
> 
>> While the OLPC concept is good, and you are helping bring technology
>> to people and places where it was previously totally unavailable, if
>> you just want a REALLY COOL TOY-
> 
> 
> I'm not all that hot about the OLPC stated goals: they're a buncha
> commies, as far as I'm concerned.  But the methods they've deployed
> are methods I agree with, and I'm happy to giggle and help while they
> distribute disruptive tech.
> 
> It seems a curious myopia to me: On the one side, they are explicitly
> chasing some of the decentralized, disruptive "many-eyes" creative
> work on curricula, but they don't seem to think it will apply to the
> tech layer at all.

I'm assuming what you mean is the distribution layer. All the tech
(software + hardware) is, AFAIK, open; that's part of the point.

I've never quite understood why they're using their distribution model
(i.e. "one laptop per child") rather than selling on the open market. I
mean, they could work with public & charitable organizations to expand
distribution, *and* sell it on the open market. That's exactly what the
OLPC knockoffs are doing (see Asus, Intel, ...). They could even mark up
the direct-to-consumer sales in rich countries to subsidize their
activities in poor countries.

I can only imagine two reasons why they don't:

1. They don't want to be tied up in DTC marketing, distribution, etc. --
they think the biggest impact will come from mass distributions and want
to focus on that.

2. They want to focus on their *message* of "one laptop per child", and
don't want to dilute it by being involved in commercial activities.

IMHO, it's up for debate whether their distribution approach is the best
way to achieve those goals. (It strikes me as the kind of approach
William Easterly would call "what *not* to do" in _The White Man's Burden_.)

I will point out, though, that even *without* engaging DTC sales, OLPC
has accomplished a lot:

* They've opened a floodgate of competitors who *do* sell DTC. OLPC
created a market / demonstrated that a market exists for these machines.
That brings new sublaptops on the market (again, see Asus, Intel, et
al.). It also creates competition with the low-end laptop market,
putting pressure on prices there (with ripples throughout the laptop
market).

* They've added powerful evidence for Linux's capability on the desktop
(and some of their competitors have followed suit).

* They've drawn a lot of attention to topics like computer access &
connectivity in poorer countries, and inspired a lot of altruistic geeks.

* They've greated a bunch of cool, open tech that others will be able to
freely re-use.

Even if no XO ever got into the hands of actual children, those would be
notable accomplishments indeed.
- --
Gavin Baker
http://www.gavinbaker.com/
[log in to unmask]
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