The $100 Laptop Dispute

Intel has received much negative press lately for ending its partnership with the nonprofit One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). OLPC’s program was designed to produce low-cost computers ($100) to bring technology and educational opportunities to children in the developing world. Intel joined the project last July only to pull out mere months later.  What went wrong? 

OLPC encountered problems from the beginning. Despite announcing that the technology could be created for only $100, it has been unable to get costs below $188. Intel produces its own low-cost laptop, the Classmate. (The major difference in these machines is that the Classmate runs on Windows and costs slightly more.) When OLPC demanded Intel stop marketing the Classmate, Intel refused and dropped out of the OLPC project. As a result, Intel has been faulted for everything from offering an inferior product to trying to take a nonprofit out of business. This raises a few questions in my mind:

  • Is the Classmate really “inferior”? Not every community has the same technology needs.  I have trouble seeing how offering multiple options can be harmful. 
  • Are we really setting children up for success if we are not giving them the system that most others are using? According to Market Share, Windows currently has over a 91% share of Operating Systems globally. 
  • Finally, if the primary goal of OLPC is to educate children around the world, why does an additional company providing low-cost computers pose such a threat? I would think that more support for the cause would not be looked at as competition.

OLPC has no doubt created a breakthrough technology; however, it seems very sad that these two organizations could not work together in a shared mission.

-Dena Pizzutti, Former Senior Account Executive, Cause Branding