One Laptop Foundation Blasts Intel, Says World’s Children are Mission, Not Market

1/4/08Follow @wroush

Apparently, the global village ain’t big enough for both Intel and Nicholas Negroponte.

The giant chipmaker said Thursday it had pulled out of Negroponte’s Cambridge-based One Laptop Per Child Foundation (OLPC), which is building a sub-$200 laptop for use by children in developing countries. Intel, with its $300-ish Classmate notebook computer, has its eye on the same market, and Intel gave up its board seat at the One Laptop Foundation because Negroponte had asked it to drop the Classmate, a request the company decided it could not accommodate, according to Intel representatives widely quoted by the Associated Press and other news organizations.

This afternoon the One Laptop foundation fired back, publishing a statement harshly criticizing Intel for failing to deliver on promises it made when it joined the One Laptop effort last summer. (Intel’s addition to the board was presented at the time as a sign of reconciliation between Intel chairman Craig Barrett and Negroponte, who had clashed over the importance of the laptop project in a well-publicized 60 Minutes broadcast). “Since joining the OLPC Board of Directors in July, Intel has violated its written agreement with OLPC on numerous occasions,” said the statement, posted on the organization’s wiki by Walter Bender, the foundation’s president for software and content. “Intel continued to disparage the XO laptop in nations that had already decided to partner with OLPC (Uruguay and Peru), with countries that were in the midst of choosing a laptop solution (Brazil and Nigeria), and other countries contemplating a laptop program (Mongolia).”

The statement also said that Intel had failed to contribute to hardware or software engineering efforts around the XO laptop (as OLPC’s laptop is known). Intel “failed to provide even a single line of code to the XO software efforts—even though Intel marketed its products as being able to run the XO software,” the organization said. “The best Intel could offer in regards to an ‘Intel inside’ XO laptop was one that would be more expensive and consume more power—exactly the opposite direction of OLPC’s stated mandate and vision.”

The foundation had planned to debut a version of the XO laptop containing an Intel microprocessor at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week, according to Information Week. But in the official hardware specifications for the XO laptop, the microprocessor at the core of the machine is a 433-Megahertz Geode LX-700 from Intel competitor AMD.

Even the two organizations’ final split was marked by acrimony. “It is clear that Intel’s heart has never been in working collaboratively as a part of OLPC,” Bender’s statement said. “This is well illustrated by the way in which our separation was announced singlehandedly by Intel; Intel issued a statement to the press behind our backs while simultaneously asking us to work on a joint statement with them. Actions do speak louder than words in this case. As we said in the past, we view the children as a mission; Intel views them as a market.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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