Intel Resigns From Board Of One Laptop Per Child
4 January, 2008
(reproduced with permission)
January 3, 2008 8:17 p.m.
Intel Corp. says it has dropped out of a non-profit project to sell millions of low-cost laptops in the developing world, citing disagreements with the organization’s founder, Nicholas Negroponte.
The divorce culminates a stormy relationship between the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker and the One Laptop Per Child project, which recently began selling a low-cost laptop in African, Latin American and other countries. The two sides had been feuding over Intel’s aggressive marketing of a low-cost laptop of its own design in many of the same countries that the non-profit had been targeting. The OLPC machine uses a microprocessor from Intel’s chief competitor, Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
After more than a year of public sniping between Intel and OLPC, Intel joined OLPC’s board in July and had been planning on announcing a new low-cost, OLPC-designed laptop based on an Intel microprocessor at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But the company has quit the board and scrapped the new machine, according to Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy.
“We’ve reached a philosophical impasse with OLPC,” he said. He added that Mr. Negroponte had demanded that Intel stop selling its own designed laptop, known as the Classmate, and to stop supplying its chips in other laptops marketed to schoolchildren in developing countries. “We can’t accommodate that request,” Mr. Mulloy said. He said Intel favors offering “many solutions” to developing countries, not just the OLPC laptop. He also said dropping the Classmate would hurt Intel’s relationships with overseas manufacturers and suppliers.
Tens of thousands of Classmates have been sold.
Mr. Negroponte, a professor on leave from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, couldn’t be reached for comment. The simmering dispute between Intel and Mr. Negroponte was detailed in a page-one story in this newspaper in November.
The concept of a low-cost laptop for the world’s poorest schoolchildren has sparked great interest from world leaders and technology companies ever since Mr. Negroponte first proposed it three years ago as a way to bridge the technology divide between rich and poor countries. He vowed to get such a device, costing just $100, into the hands of up to 150 million children by this year. But although OLPC has managed to develop an innovative machine, it has failed so far to achieve its target price — the current model sells overseas for $188 — and to attract large orders from governments because of increasing competition. As sales problems mounted, the project recently reversed course on its plan not to sell the device to American consumers. In November, it began selling pairs of laptops to U.S. and Canadian consumers for $399 under a program in which buyers could keep one and give the other to a student in a poor country like Haiti. The program ended on Monday. OLPC has called the program — known as “Give One. Get One.” — successful, but hasn’t disclosed total sales figures.
Mr. Negroponte serves on a committee to protect the editorial integrity of Dow Jones & Co., the owner of The Wall Street Journal that was acquired last month by News Corp.