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Tuesday 24 July 2007

OLPC why not for us? [Slim]

Looks like the olpc laptop is ramping up to production:

bbc news

£60 quid laptop for third world kids. No moving parts, online, crankable battery, has a reflective lcd so it works in daylight. Superb, but why only for the third world. My kids school is buying macbooks for the kids, at a grand each. but they're short of cash so are buying them very gradually. Meanwhile the ICT Suite is being emptied to make room for another class meaning the kids without a laptop will have trouble getting access to a computer. Why?

Why not buy these, or even cheaper intel based laptops for £300-400 rather than overpriced mac tat?


  1. Engadget reckons we'll see it, though at a price to subsidise the developing world price.

  2. You've got two points here. Why no $100 lappy for us and why £1000 mac books for schools.

    Firstly the $100 lappy. The specs clearly aren't ideal, they're not used in the sun and you don't want to crank them up. Also having a hard drive is pretty useful really, as is being able to run software which one might encounter in the real world rather than some custom Linux stuff. The laptop also isn't $100 yet, that's just the aim. And if it were sold here, add packaging, tax, retail margin and delivery and I expect it'd be £200 or something.

    £300 buys you a perfectly good proper laptop. Of course the average laptop price is way higher and the reason it's higher is a) because we can afford it and b) the collective marketing might of the entire IT industry which is naturally enough focused on raising the average selling price (ASP).

    Your second point about a £1,000 mac book. Well, that is indeed bloody stupid. It's far too costly and is also some proprietary thing which doesn't reflect what most people are actually using so it strikes me that decision could only have come from some Mac evangelist dickhead rather than someone thinking carefully about what's needed. £300 Intel laptops is exactly what you want for that. Dump the tax off it, buy in bulk, get a nice discount on the software from Big Bill for education purposes and I reckon a school could pay nearer £200 a unit!

    So knowing that this is the reality of the difference in cost/spec, I think the OLPC is a complete red herring. Yet there ought to be some hard questions asked such as you mention. We should not be buying ANY £1,000 laptops as long as there are kids who don't have adequate access to computers.

    Doesn't this strike you as something that should have been sorted on a national level? Eg put out a request for tender for 200,000 laptops complete with software and service contract. Probably wouldn't apply to your rock like but you'd think it'd make sense in the UK?

    P.S. Maybe there is, on balance, a good reason to use some open source closed up system instead of a Microsoft powered thing - support and risk to students etc. That ought to be examined also.

  3. Negroponte has alluded to the $100 laptop being available to the mass market "at some point, probably" on the basis of a buy 2, get 1 model which is a great idea.

    As for your point Slim, I'm not convinced it'd be suitable for say, a school in the UK. For example, I would imagine that kids would need access to the Microsoft Office suite to learn how to use Word etc. The $100 lappy won't support that, as it doesn't have sufficient storage capacity or indeed a compatible OS.

    It also doesn't have an ethernet port (which I confess to finding somewhat bizarre) and relies entirely on its mesh capability for networking; not sure how that would work in urban canyon style layouts that we see up and down the land.

    I totally agree with the ridiculous situation concerning £1,000 laptops - I think the OLPC objectives can be and should be extended on a national level but with a better spec'd laptop, and taking advantage of home broadband penetration.