Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce OLPC: following in the steps of Microsoft

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When Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the One Laptop Per Child project, said two months ago that the project needed to be managed "more like Microsoft" he was speaking nothing but the truth.

The OLPC was set up, initially, to provide laptops as educational tools to children in developing countries. But the shine has all gone from the project now, due to poor take-up, an unseemly row with Intel and infighting that has led to top people quitting. There is also a patent infringement lawsuit over the keyboard.

Add to that the deviation from running free software to becoming a repository for Windows XP (and all the scumware, spyware and malware that live on that venerable operating system) and Negroponte's halo has all but gone.

When Microsoft's new operating system Vista turned out to be a spectacular failure, the company tried to turn people's attention to its next operating system, Windows 7. It's still spinning that tale.

The OLPC has followed a similar path. Negroponte is now trying to turn people's attention to the next of his laptops, what he calls the XO-2. The first laptop, called the XO, was supposed to be sold for $US100 and ended up being sold for $US188.

Now, Negroponte says, his target price for the next laptop is $US75. That is, if the project is still alive in 2010, which is when he says this new gadget will arrive.

This is an old strategy which spinmeisters have used since I was knee-high to a grasshopper - nothing to see here (where the spectacular failure resides), move along (to the area where our next concept resides).

He's pretty good at this sleight of hand stuff, Monsieur Negroponte. He seems to grab this kind of stuff literally out of thin air.

Few details have been provided about the new gadget which, from pictures available at the Laptop website has dual touch screens and appears to be much smaller than the XO.

But given what you can do with graphics software these days, I wouldn't lay much store by these pictures and the accompanying video - I've just finished watching the film Conspiracy in which Val Kilmer appears as a marine with one leg.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.