Two of the five key representatives and board directors of OLPC in Australia are Jeff Waugh and his partner Pia Waugh, both of whom have been active in the Australian Linux community for some years in addition to running their own open source consulting business. Jeff Waugh is also a director of the GNOME Foundation, which promotes the development of that Linux GUI.
The controversial OLPC program has provoked harsh interchanges between OLPC advocates and vocal opponents, some of which have been reported on iTWire.
One of the most widely reported public spats was the bust-up of a brief relationship between OLPC and Intel. Nicholas Negroponte himself got involved when he basically accused Intel of trying to sabotage the OLPC program by actively promoting its Classmate laptop as an alternative while ostensibly being a partner of OLPC. Then there was Scandinavian aid organisation FAIR which dared to suggest in an open release that donating recycled PCs for computer labs made more sense than selling large quantities of cheap laptops to second and third world governments.
That prompted Nicholas Negroponte to demand a public apology from FAIR.
There have also been the yeas and nays in the media. David Pogue has extolled the virtues of the XO, calling it a kid magnet, while John Dvorak described the XO as "a let them eat cake sort of message to the world's poor."
Meanwhile, there have been mixed reports of the success of the OLPC program to date. There have been some successes with XO laptops sold into places like Uruguay, Peru and even Alabama!
There was also the the moderately successful get-one, give-one program in the US last year. However, there have also been reports of problems with the orders fulfillment process. highlighting the fact that OLPC is not a professional, commercially oriented organisation experienced in the dynamics of supply chain management.
Leading on from that the OLPC program faces another semingly looming threat - competition from the commercial laptop makers. The US$200 XO, available only in quantities of tens of thousands to governments, now seems decidely expensive compared to the likes of the popular Asus Eee PC which can bought from retail stores in the US by consumers for less than US$250. In the space of less than a year Asus has sold more than 1 million units of the Eee PC, considerably more than the number of XO laptops OLPC has managed to place so far.
When the new Rudd Labor Government took office late last year, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made providing subsidised laptops to Australian school children a key manifesto.
It is in this climate that the launch of OLPC Australia has been announced. As a consequence a number of pertinent questions need to asked and these have been put to Jeff Waugh, who has been happy to provide some answers. CONTINUED