Monday, May 14, 2007

The XO/Classmate AMD/Intel Politics

I somehow missed the memo about Negroponte's announcement that they were seriously considering distributing XO's in the US, and when I heard about it didn't make sense to me. This Fortune column explains the political wrangling behind it. As I understand it Negroponte and OLPC believe Intel is offering Classmate PC's to countries considering the XO in smaller batches (10,000 Classmates instead of 1,000,000 XO's) and at a loss to match the XO's price and performance. The suggestion that OLPC would sell XO's in the US is an escalation of this conflict, because AMD's market share for laptop CPU's in the US is low, so selling low-priced AMD-powered laptops in the US doesn't piss off too many conventional laptop vendors, but Dell, HP, Apple, etc. would never allow Intel to undercut their Intel-powered products by selling a much lower cost Intel-powered laptop in the US, especially dumping it at a loss.

This is business, and it is getting hard-ball. It is a real possibility that Intel could undermine OLPC enough to cripple it, although, to be fair, it isn't certain that they are even trying to do so. I just don't want to try to imagine what the next decade of educational computing will look like if OLPC is crippled by industry maneuvering (think exactly like the last one).

The fact that OLPC is trying to completely re-create the application shell, security model, file system, etc. on a very tight schedule also makes them vulnerable. I can't really believe the software will be ready this year, but OLPC has already done the impossible with hardware, so we'll see. Hopefully none of the people considering which laptop to buy are reading Dreaming in Code.

3 comments:

D Holton said...

The classmate pc is already planned to be sold to us, starting at $249:
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070503-asustek-to-launch-249-classmate-pc-in-july.html

Tom Hoffman said...

Hm... yes, this is all quite confusing. What they definitely won't be doing is dumping Classmates below cost in the US.

Gnuosphere said...

The last sentence in the CNN article pretty much sums it up...

"As for Intel, it should really have better things to do than to combat a non-profit effort that seems to be making a difference."