TED: Negroponte Says OLPC Started Netbook Craze; Will Open-Source Its Hardware

Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop for Child, today at the TED Conference claimed credit for instigating the rise of netbooks. He said we can thank OLPC, which he proposed three years ago, for estimates that netbooks will be half the market in 12 months.

But he decried the influence for-profit companies have had on OLPC, saying commercial markets have competed with the project mercilessly. And OLPC’s hardiness and specialization for children have not been replicated in netbooks, whereas they are some of the most important aspects of the product. OLPC has half a million devices in use today, and they are even being used by kids to teach their parents how to read and write.

So what Negroponte is going to do is open source the OLPC hardware, he said, and invite competitors to copy it. His hope is that will result in 5 to 6 million OLPC-type laptops per month going to children three years from now.

OLPC Scales Back, Cuts 50 Percent of Staff

Nicholas Negroponte, the promoter of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, says that economic hard times have hit the OLPC effort, and the group will cut its staff by half; the remaining 32 employees will take a big salary cut. The work on version 2.0 continues, but some of the software efforts are being passed on to the community. Over past 12 months, OLPC has been hit with problems including exodus of key OLPC team members. I was skeptical of OLPC from the very beginning. The irony is that the idea behind OLPC — small, rugged, anytime, lightweight computers — has taken hold. Netbooks were one of the hottest selling items this holiday season.

Vid-Biz: TiVo, Charity, Christian the Lion

No Decision in TiVo Contempt Case; a federal judge failed to make a decision in TiVo’s request to find Dish Network in contempt over not disabling its DVR functionality. (Multichannel News)

Online Video for a Good Cause; Dailymotion partners with One Laptop Per Child to create a site with videos in compatible formats for the device; Stand Up To Cancer organization guest edits the YouTube home page to raise awareness. (OLPC: Dailymotion Blog); Stand Up: YouTube Blog)

Christian the Lion Becoming a Movie; YouTube vid about a lion reuniting with its previous owners after spending a year in the wild optioned by Sony. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Comcast’s Coutroom Drama Begins; cable co. is appealing FCC enforcement order over the throttling of BitTorrent traffic. (GigaOM)

Component Inputs Coming to Zv Box; new feature will allow additional set-top boxes like DVRs to be hooked up to the device. (CE Pro)

AT&T Mobility Chief: New 3G iPhone Is a Game-changer

The new 3G iPhone is a game-changer, according to Ralph de la Vega, president & CEO of AT&T Mobility. Just hours after the heavily anticipated unveiling of the device, I chatted with de la Vega about the iPhone, its impact on location-based services, enterprise mobility and of course, the wireless web revolution that he believes it will unleash. Continue Reading

Fake Steve has Real Tip: Beware VCs with ‘one pair of glasses’ syndrome.

I’m daily consumer of The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, mostly for its entertainment value, but there is also often real business intelligence there — even if, sometimes, you have to read between the lines and reverse-engineer huge doses of irony to get it. (We posted on Fake Steve’s School of Management: The 10 Commandments of Fake Steve Jobs.)

Today fsj, a.k.a, Dan Lyons, has a good piece of advice for all founders: beware investors and advisors with the ‘one pair of glasses’ syndrome. Fsj picks on VC Bob Metcalf and a recent CNET story in which Metcalf says he thinks we can solve global warming by applying lessons learned from building the Internet. (Metcalf is famous for co-inventing the Ethernet.) Fsj believes such myopic thinking is potentially dangerous. He’s probably right.

… like Andy Grove says the way to fix the pharmaceutical industry is to follow the example of the chip industry. And Nicholas Negroponte thinks the way to solve poverty is to hand out laptops. I call it the “one pair of glasses” theory. You see it all the time. People know one thing and they think that this one thing can be applied to every problem, because it’s the only way they know how to look at the world. They’ve got one pair of glasses.

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What you can learn from the sad fate of OLPC

LESSON: Your mission is the goal. Your model is the method. Do not confuse these two things.

The sad story of the One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) is like a case study in what not to do. I know it’s a non-profit, but in the misguided strategy and execution here are plenty of lessons for you, not the least of which you’ll glean from this interview Nick Negroponte gave to Business Week in the Mar. 17 issue, 0306_mz_negroponte.jpg
in which he said the organization he founded 3 years ago has been operating “almost like a terrorist group” and that it now needs to be managed “more like Microsoft.”

I suspect one reason OLPC has had to operate as an outlaw (if Negroponte is to be believed), is that the mission of delivering a $100 laptop was totally inflexible to practical realities of commercial business models. The goal wasn’t “the cheapest laptop possible without running a deficit” but rather, a $100 laptop “at all costs.” Yet, to succeed, OLPC depended on partnerships with for-profit companies like Intel. When the market economics couldn’t be made fit into the $100-mold, ultimately, Intel walked. Now OLPC employees are, too.

Read the Business Week story for more perspective, but the main lesson here is this: Your mission is the goal. Your model is the method. Confuse these two things at you peril.

The Unintended Consequences of OLPC

classmateolpc.gifThings aren’t going terribly well for the “One Laptop Per Child” project, reports The Wall Street Journal. The project, which started as a noble effort to educate the children of poor nations via $100 laptops computers, has run into stiff competition from the likes of Intel (INTC), which is using its overseas sales force to aggressively push its Classmate device, which sells for between $230 and $300 dollars.
What really caught my eye in the piece was the fact that during the first two days of the OLPC’s promotional effort — buy one and give one laptop — nearly 45,000 devices were ordered, mostly from the U.S. That clearly indicates that OLPC has elicited a lot of interest amongst the PC-toting masses. My anecdotal observation is backed by recent search trends. Read More about The Unintended Consequences of OLPC

OLPC Has A Network Problem

I have been fairly skeptical of the One Laptop Per Child project, not because it’s not a worthy cause, but because it doesn’t factor in the harsh realities of the daily lives of those who Nicholas Negroponte & Co. plan to uplift.
olpc.gifWhere food, water and shelter are largely unmet needs, it is my belief that a laptop is not a road to salvation. Looks like I might be wrong. Apparently kids love it, as per Brazilian Culture Minister Gilberto Gil’s speech at the Emerging Technologies (EmTech) Conference at MIT, where he talked about the magnificence of the laptop project and its deep impact on children.
Nevertheless, his country isn’t ready to order the devices just yet. Why? Because they don’t have the network infrastructure. Read More about OLPC Has A Network Problem