Nicholas Negroponte has started a bitch-fight against Intel because, according to him, they are trying to drive him out of business by underpricing their OLPC rival, the Classmate. He says that Intel "should be ashamed of itself" arguing that by bringing a low-cost laptop to developing countries, they hurt "his mission enormously." His mission. Intel's Chairman Craig Barrett calls the notion "crazy." I'm going to go a step further and say that Negroponte's arguments are absolutely stupid. Clickity-clack on the jump to see more about the OLPC vs Classmate clash.
Negroponte argues that he and his mission are a victim of the fierce Intel-AMD war, since the OLPC is powered by AMD processors. According to him, Intel is distributing materials to governments comparing the Classmate to the OLPC, with titles like "the shortcomings of the One Laptop per Child approach."
Barrett answered Negroponte's claims, declaring to the CBS that Intel is not trying to drive the OLPC out of business, merely bringing low-cost computers to young people through the world. "Someone at Intel was comparing the Classmate PC with another device being offered in the marketplace" he said, "that's the way our business works."
And indeed, it is. We don't really know about each laptop's true technical merits. Nobody really knows which one is better because there's no side-by-side reviews yet. We don't know about Intel or the OLPC's marketing arguments. We don't know exactly what either of them are saying about each other to governments across the world.
The only fact we know is that the OLPC has a $176 price tag and the Classmate costs $200: both are designed to bring computing and the Internet to children in developing countries at very low cost.
So I don't care if the Classmate is priced below cost or the OLPC is made with fairies' dust. The only thing myself and anyone, including Negroponte, should really care about is that there's not only one, but two cheap computers for emerging nations. And that, no matter how you look at it, is a Good Thing™.
If Negroponte is telling the truth and Intel's ulterior motive to underprice their Classmate is its own long-term "benefit" for the sake of market share, the only true winners are the kids, the recipients of those computers. And if Intel is trying to push their option by highlighting its strengths versus the OLPC and the governments decide to buy Classmates based entirely on technical merit, that will be good for Intel but the true winners will again be the kids. I'm sure those children won't give a damn about what type of processor these machines have (in fact, I doubt they will give a damn about a computer over a sandwich at this point, but that's an entirely different debate.)
And what about if the governments decide to buy an OLPC instead? Well, maybe that will force Intel to drop their prices even more and once again the kids will be the ultimate winners, as they will have more powerful machines for less money.
I don't know about you, but I read Negroponte's arguments and they seem to be related to only one thing: his ego. BBC News says that Negroponte complained at the beginning of the year that his concept had received a lot of criticism and "yet after that criticism they are either copying it or doing things perfectly in line with the concept. Yes people laugh at it, then they criticise it, then they copy it." Maybe it's time for him to realize that the idea of creating such a beast may be his in the first place, but the more companies and countries (like India wants to do for a tenth of the price) get into it, the better it will be for everyone.
According to unconfirmed rumors relayed by a totally drunk and unreliable source, Negroponte has also complained to his teacher about Barrett stealing his chocolate pudding at lunch and drawing moustaches over all his Spider-man comics. "That Barrett kid is mean, mean, mean! MEAN I SAY!" he reportedly whinged.
'$100 laptop' sparks war of words [BBC News]