Netbooks are one of the hottest segments of the computer market today, and netbooks might not exist if it hadn’t been for Nicholas Negroponte’s OLPC effort. But these are not exactly the best of times to be running a non-profit. And OLPC has been hit hard. Negroponte posted an entry on the foundation’s Wiki today saying that the group is cutting its staff by about 50% and reducing salaries for the 32 people who will remain on staff.
The organization is still focusing on delivering the laptop to children in developing countries, but these cuts are obviously going to force the group to scale back on some areas. While there are still plans to build a new XO Laptop with dual touch screen displays, I have to wonder how the foundation is going to meet that goal given today’s announcement.
If Negroponte’s goal was to drive down the price of laptops, he’s done that. Dozens of companies are selling netbooks with low power processors and price tags between $200 and $600 today and that wasn’t true a few years ago. But Negroponte does say that one of the project’s goals now is to bring the price down to $0 for children in some of the most underdeveloped nations, and that’s something that commercial computer makers like Asus, Acer, and MSI aren’t likely to do anytime soon.
What do you think? Is it time for the OLPC Foundation to declare mission accomplished and move on, or is there a way to save this project?