olpc-halfNetbooks 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?

via OStatic

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5 replies on “OLPC cuts staff in half”

  1. Oh just put a fork in it…they were pioneers when no one wanted to touch the idea of a netbook which is how we should remember them. But as an organization, they failed.
    Over these pasts years, theyve changed chips, theyve got rid of their custom made desktop, changed desktops, suffered public resignations from most of their technical leaders and have flipped flopped so much that honestly people dont care anymore.

    And when it comes to sales and administration, they are diletantes and Negroponte was swimming with sharks totally unprepared and unsavvy to big business manipulations.

    And even though it means little in the big picture, they put so much publicity on the ‘100$ laptop” that when it came out to 180$ it was considered to be a failure by many people.
    Set your bar too high and when you miss, what do you expect?

    And stop selling us the garbage that they are the only ones.
    Intel who screwed OLPC, then worked with them (Im not sure if they are in or out now…)
    has been selling the Classmate around the world.
    Portugal sold 1 million of them to Venezuela.
    Brazil has them with both Mandriva Linux and the local distro Metasys.
    And I know that they are available in Argentina as well.
    I remember something about Peru but I think that it the OLPC..
    Vietnam bought a few hundred thou (with Hacao Linux), I know Lybia and Spain (Extramadura) bought them as well.
    They are available in India with Edubuntu, in Indonesia they use some other names, in Greeece its called the Quest. Portugal not only has them but produces them for other countries and so on.

    Intel doesnt make the Classmate, they produce the chips that power them.
    The Classmate PC is a reference design by Intel which is used by OEMs worldwide to build them so very often they dont have the name Classmate.

    I am far, far from being an Intel fanboi (I think they were as despicable as Micro-Soft in this case) but they know the art of the deal and leveraged/blackmailed/pressured that comes with the terrirtory. I like the ‘built it and they will come’ ethic taht true believer below has but that’s not how it works. The best ideas and the best tech does not always win. Having other do-gooder orgs join in the administration wouldnt do a thing for their sales which is a battle they cant win based on good intentions only. Education and finance ministers dont care about Burning Man, they care about numbers… prices, discounts, supports, parts, delivery and so on.

    The Classmate motives arent as hippyesque as the OLPC but they have produced numbers. Nodoby might have the intentions of OLPC but when it comes to actually delivering them, OLPC is also on their own there… at the bottom of the pile.

    Like I said, they were a great idea and have degenerated into a long soap opera which now results that most people say “Oh, theyre still around.”

    Let it go.
    It did its job by convincing manufacturers that small, cheap, low powered netbooks are a viable option. They scared the crap out of Intel and Microsoft into doing something.
    For that, we should be thankful.
    For Negroponte, it is a failure not of this vision but of his managerial skills. Of course, what made anyone think a tenured professor has any?

  2. ALSO – if someone copied the exact specs of the XO-1, feature for feature, added a bigger SSD and a little more RAM, bigger keyboard (92% or in that area), with the 11 hours of run time per charge that it has (at least) in non-backlit mode, IT WOULD BE THE #1 Netbook out there today!

    I had hoped that the ARM folks would do that (but even the ARM device that is the $199 netbook well it had a Lithium Ion battery (only 500 charges per life-time fo the batter vs the 2000 chargers that the OLPC XO-1 NOW has (OLCP XO-1 does not use Litium Ion).

  3. My guess is that the last G1G1 was not as popular as the first G1G1 (that happened in a time when there were very few other netbooks at all). IF they sold the OLPC XO that came wiht the G!G! deal with larger RAM and Larger SSD then it would be useful for others to use (and made the keyboard a bit bigger). However, if anyone has a problem with the Sugar (who is an adult and would like to use the XO-1 for other uses) then it is suggested that they try the OpenBox Widow Mangager Hack (does not need much RAM or SSD) for the XO-1 that is found here:

    “Given up on Sugar (at least for now)? Finding even XFCE a little bit slow?

    This guide is for you. It’s neither simple nor quick, but the effort put into installing OpenBox on your OLPC will be richly rewarded.

    NOTE: This guide does not uninstall the base fedora operating system and need not uninstall sugar either, so keep in mind that if all else fails you’ll have lost naught but 40 recoverable megabytes and a few hours.

  4. There are thousands of groups of people working on hardware or software for what we now call netbooks and/or for low cost computing for education.
    There is NOBODY else like the OLPC project.
    They have delivered the goods again and again and again. Even if their work is thought of only as a conceptual framework, that framework and their continual delivery of improvements, have helped us all. Their version 2 form factor is amazing, their interface work insightful and dialogue-provoking.
    There are things about the OLPC project that annoy the piss out of me. Their transparency, afaict, sucks rocks. The keyboard is seriously in need of revision and/or further justification. Their documentation of their field work on their site is third rate. All in all, they’ve got a serious problem with anything involving interaction with the outside world.
    But ya know what? They deliver the goods. So they’re kinda closedmouthed. So was Nicola Tesla sometimes and we certainly wouldn’t want to do without the advances he gave us.
    What would I say to do? Have them bring in folks from the Rocky Mountain Institute to help them resolve operational issues. Have staffers from Freegeek and UNESCO and the Ford Foundation and Mercy Corps seconded to act as internal liasons. Fund a recruiting drive at Burning Man and Make Magazine events for one year unpaid internships. And, if nothing else, bloody well have some folks from Armadillo Aerospace head over there to get them to put some frickin’ substantive and enjoyable content on the web on a regular basis about what they’re doing and why.
    But don’t let them die. Please, if there is any justice in the world, don’t let them die.

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