Intel Joins One Laptop Per Child
When I reviewed Intel's Classmate PC last week, I felt obliged to give the One Laptop Per Child initiative a prominent mention in the piece. Even though "OLPC" hasn't shipped its XO laptop yet, it's drawn too much attention to ignore.
What I didn't know at the time was that Intel, too, was interested in OLPC. On Thursday, it agreed to join that project, a decision announced Friday in an Intel press release and a note on the OLPC site.
The two organizations had never mentioned this possibility in public before; they'd even engaged in a little trash-talking about their respective efforts. So this was a major surprise. After taking a moment to whine about the rotten timing of the news--if only they'd closed the deal on Wednesday, I could have had this in my column!--I called Intel for more details.
Will Swope, a vice president for corporate affairs, said Intel chief executive Paul Ottelini and OLPC head Nicholas Negroponte began talking about a month ago, but up until late Thursday afternoon they still weren't sure that a combined effort would work.
Swope described Intel's contribution in general terms--"There will be money, there will be personnel, there will be engineering"--but didn't offer specific numbers. Swope also said that while Intel would contribute servers to the OLPC effort, there was no promise of the project's XO laptop using an Intel processor instead of the AMD chip it runs on now.
Swope also said that the Classmate would not be shelved or merged with the XO: "We already have about a three-year road map for Classmate." Intel's laptop could, however, incorporate some of the technology used in the XO. Over time, the two machines could become more alike--or they could become different options in a broader product line.
Having the Classmate and the XO on the same team, so to speak, will remove some competition from the market. But almost-as-cheap ultralight laptops are in the works from such companies as Asus and Palm.
Speaking of the XO, since Thursday's column ran I've heard from quite a few people involved in the OLPC project, and it looks like I'll have to chance to inspect a test unit up close in the near future. If you have questions about how the XO works or the OLPC project in general, leave them in the comments and I'll try to get them answered.
July 16, 2007; 7:04 AM ET
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