When I met with Nicholas Negroponte not long ago, he laughed at the coverage he'd received through the past few years, including our own portrayal of Intel chairman Craig Barrett and him as Beavis and Butthead. Far more hurtful have been the admonitions of his own former staffers who feel he has mismanaged the OLPC project. Nearly every one of the original staff had abandoned the project by 2008, often in disgust. But Negroponte remains stalwart: "My elephant skin is the thickness of steel," he told me. Perhaps his resistance to criticism has been one of the project's fatal flaws.
Although the project seemed threatened in early 2006 from all sides these were minor compared to the problems to come. The biggest concern at the time was lack of an LCD panel manufacturer, but Negroponte and CTO Mary Lou Jepsen managed to charm another eccentric Taiwanese billionaire. Wen-Long Hsu—founder of southern Taiwan's Chi-Mei conglomerate—is the owner of the world's largest collection of Stradivarius violins, and he played one for them when they visited to sign contracts.