Saturday, February 23, 2008

XO coming soon... sort of.

With apologies to Richard....

I just received an email from the OLPC Foundation. Key part:

Our production schedule is still on track and we expect to deliver your laptop by the middle part to end of March. Your donation is in queue and ready for shipment as soon as we receive additional laptops.

I am looking forward to getting my unit, and knowing that someone someplace will soon be getting the one I donated.

I have read that they are making them at a clip of over 100,000 a month right now, and over half a million have already been made. That is both impressive and a drop in a bucket. The impressive part is to think that this innovative learning device is already out there, with Linux at its core, at a pace where several million new Linux users will join the ranks this year.

The problem is that there are seven billion plus people on the planet, so the XO is still far too rare. At its current production level, the temptation will be to have these units showing up on eBay or other unintended uses than in the hands of the children that need them. That is not good.

To really succeed the XO need to reach a ubiquity that makes it so commonplace that the idea of buying on on eBay approaches the idea of buying air there. That means billions of them. SO common that no one is taking them from the children as unique, interesting, or valuable, but rather giving them each one as intended so that they can use it as a learning tool. As long as it is cool and new, there will be problems.

I think this was probably part of the problem that Negroponte was addressing in his Wired interview, when he said:

Over the next few weeks… there'll be partnerships and changes with companies that can start rolling this out. What becomes pretty clear pretty quickly, you need people to copy it and do it at a larger scale. No matter what we do as OLPC or, you're not going to be able to do the whole world. You want to be able to influence efficiently enough to have other people do it.

No wonder MS is sweating bullets and trying to get XP going ASAP on this gear. They are looking at billions of people not using their stuff.


Anonymous said...

Now, now, Steve. I didn't say that the OLPC wasn't interesting, I just disagreed that it would be a "paradigm shifter" or a world-changer.

It IS interesting, just I don't think that the kids in Africa will actually GET them, and that due to corruption, they're far more likely to turn up selling on eBay.

Anyway after you used my name in the first sentence I had to read what you said. ;-)

Richard Meyer

Steve Carl said...

I think you are probably right about the eBay thing, which is why they literally have to make Billions of them.

I do want them to reach their intended audience. If they do, then it is a paradigm shift like never before.

If they do not, that will be very sad indeed.