Thursday, May 29, 2008

Microsoft's alliance with OLPC, and the exit of Walter Bender!!

I have several problems with Negroponte's philosophy on the OLPC Project. At the outset, I must confess my admiration for any "disruptive" idea or technology. By that count, the OLPC is a good disruptive technology. However, Negroponte’s business model of initially insisting that poor countries purchase 1 million units at $100 a piece was a real stinker. Imagine, having to shell out $100 million for an unproven concept!! No matter how relevant and exciting the OLPC technology might have been, that is not the way to gouge poorer countries with unproven concepts and products. Poor countries have scarce resources and have the right to prioritize usage in their own unique ways.

The right way to proliferate the OLPC in these countries would have been to align with philanthropic foundations that would put up the money to deliver OLPC devices to poorer countries.

Then, this recent OLPC tie-up with M$ has come as an absolute shocker. The initial focus on the "constructionist" learning model will now vanish with M$'s focus on the dollar. Young students starting out with XP will become robotic users of mobile computing devices and applications as defined by M$, rather than develop as creative human beings capable of personalizing open source software to their unique situations through incremental or deeper changes.

I am glad Walter Bender has seen the light and moved on to Sugar Labs where he will continue with the constructionist learning philosophy.

Since Sugar is open-sourced, we would love to put it on our own hardware, the Encore Mobilis which I designed and built with a small dedicated team of engineers at Bangalore, India. We are justifiably proud of our own product but also appreciate the good features, like Sugar, in competing products. I am glad we will now be in a position to offer Sugar on the Mobilis, should we decide to, and provide our users more choice.

Good luck, Walter, and keep the open-source flag flying!! Freedom of choice is important for all of us. Let a thousand flowers bloom.



Edward said...

You are welcome to join SugarLabs and talk to us about porting Sugar to the Mobilis. I don't think that dual-boot Linux and Windows XOs are as dire as some have painted them, particularly since nobody seems to be interested in porting Sugar to Windows. One Laptop Per Child has no interest in selling Windows-only XOs.

The XO has blown open the ultra-low-cost laptop market, which now has more Linux offerings than Windows. Open Firmware is the first entirely free BIOS replacement capable of booting Widows, which I expect to be of great interest to PC manufacturers.

And the education mission is still intact. Check out Alan Kay's recent presentation at It's the best I have seen.

Seth Woodworth said...

Yes and Yes. Porting Sugar to your machine is exactly the sort of work that Sugarlabs wants to be doing.