First reaction to the news was positive – good to see Intel finally burying its differences with the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project and throwing its weight behind the venture, but what took it so long? Reluctance to join an intitiative that had the involvement of AMD may be one factor, but the wider issues of helping the devloping world should have overcome this. As recently as Comdex 2007, last month, Intel was promoting its rival Classmate project, so it’s a big turnaround.
Indeed, equally recently, project leader Nicholas Negroponte was describing Intel as “shameless” in its attempt to undermine the project with its own ultra-cheap laptop. Such laptops are not just about a feel-good factor, hwoever, they also promise technology innovations – for example, requiring just two watts of power compared to a typical laptop’s 40 watts, and doing away with hard drives in favour of flash memory. However, one blogger who has been following OLPC in detail, Wayan Vota and his One Laptop Per Child News, strikes a cautionary note. “Intel did not get to be a multi-billion dollar multinational computing dominator by playing for second in a target (or emerging) market,” he writes. “Intel will invest in OLPC to become the main chip supplier for developing world computers, squashing any other entrant or competition, and not always with better technology. And that may be the worst result of the Intel + OLPC agreement, a decrease in technology competition.”