What's With the OLPC Hate?

I've come up with an ambitious plan for my next five years. In five years I intend to be a billionaire and I'm announcing it to the world so that everyone knows. But what if I don't make it to one billion in five years? What if I'm only worth $900 million or, oh no, $800 million? Now some of you might be thinking, hey $800 million sounds pretty good to me, no need to be disappointed by that. Getting that close to a difficult goal is a major achievement. Well sure, from a logical standpoint that makes sense. But you clearly haven't been paying attention to the recent outcry over the failure of the One Laptop Per Child project to meet their original goal of the $100 laptop. A few years ago MIT's Nicholas Negroponte and the OLPC launched with the audacious goal of creating a powerful and unique laptop for the developing world that would only cost $100. However, recently the OLPC announced that the cost of their XO laptop will actually be $200 for now. And based on some of the discussion out on the Web, this clearly means that the OLPC and the XO laptop is a massive failure. It doesn't matter that a $200 laptop alone is an unbelievable achievement or that the XO contains innovative power, networking and display technologies not found in laptops worth thousands more. Since they've come in at twice their original goal the OLPC might as well shut their doors and forget about helping millions of kids. OK, I'm exaggerating a little bit. But for some reason the OLPC and the XO laptop has generated a fairly large share of criticism and skepticism since the very beginning.

Jim RapozaI've come up with an ambitious plan for my next five years. In five years I intend to be a billionaire and I'm announcing it to the world so that everyone knows.

But what if I don't make it to one billion in five years? What if I'm only worth $900 million or, oh no, $800 million?

Now some of you might be thinking, hey $800 million sounds pretty good to me, no need to be disappointed by that. Getting that close to a difficult goal is a major achievement.

Well sure, from a logical standpoint that makes sense. But you clearly haven't been paying attention to the recent outcry over the failure of the One Laptop Per Child project to meet their original goal of the $100 laptop.

A few years ago MIT's Nicholas Negroponte and the OLPC launched with the audacious goal of creating a powerful and unique laptop for the developing world that would only cost $100. However, recently the OLPC announced that the cost of their XO laptop will actually be $200 for now.

And based on some of the discussion out on the Web, this clearly means that the OLPC and the XO laptop is a massive failure. It doesn't matter that a $200 laptop alone is an unbelievable achievement or that the XO contains innovative power, networking and display technologies not found in laptops worth thousands more. Since they've come in at twice their original goal the OLPC might as well shut their doors and forget about helping millions of kids.

OK, I'm exaggerating a little bit. But for some reason the OLPC and the XO laptop has generated a fairly large share of criticism and skepticism since the very beginning.

At first many pundits said that it couldn't be done, that it would be impossible to even get close to a $100 laptop. Then some industry heavyweights, without even seeing the laptop, knocked it as a barebones toy that would be worthless to children. Now that people have seen the unique power of the XO laptop, they are criticizing the OLPC for not reaching the $100 goal (even though they've been saying for over a year that it would be over $175) and for failing to meet all of their distribution goals in third world countries.

And I have to say that I just don't get it. What is with the dislike of the OLPC? It often seems as if there are people out there who want to see it fail, and who cares if millions of kids are hurt by its failure.

Who are these people? Do they hate little kids and puppy dogs too?

To a certain degree I think they fall into two camps, those who originally said it couldn't work and who hate to be proven wrong and those technology vendors who fear that the XO could have a negative impact on their businesses.

But either way attacking the OLPC doesn't make much sense to me. We all should want to see it succeed, both for the good it will bring to children around the world and for the technological advancements it will bring to all of us.

Come to think of it, my goal to be a billionaire seems pretty selfish when compared to the goals of the OLPC. I think I'll instead set a goal to make the world better for as many people as I can.

No one can criticize that, can they?