Last night 60 Minutes aired a story on Nicholas Negroponte’s One Laptop Per Child project, source of the famous $100 laptop. An interesting aspect of the story was the focus on some of the tactics that Intel is using to promote its similar product, the Classmate PC.
Similarly to the OLPC’s $100 laptop, the Classmate PC is designed to be a sturdy, wireless, inexpensive (starting at $200) computing solution for children in third-world countries. However, rather than focusing on how wonderful it is that these two systems are being built to help educate children, some of the 60 Minutes piece focused on the current dispute between Intel and the One Laptop Per Child project, including some pretty heated comments from both Nicholas Negroponte and Intel Chairman Craig Barrett.
Now, when I first heard of the Classmate PC, I thought it was a good thing. Having two projects working toward this end should simply mean more opportunities to get computer systems in the hands of children.
However, in the segment, Negroponte showed marketing materials that Intel had distributed to Nigeria that were highly critical of the $100 laptop in comparison to the Classmate PC. And Barrett confirmed the existence of the documents, saying, “Someone at Intel was comparing the Classmate PC with another device being offered in the marketplace. That’s the way our business works.”
Excuse me, Mr. Barrett? Business? Earlier in the 60 Minutes segment, Barrett had said some good things, such as that the entire industry needs to work to help educate children in disadvantaged situations and that he wants Intel and the OLPC to work together. But that one quote completely countered all the good things he had said.
These projects can’t be done from a regular business perspective. This isn’t Intel vs. AMD. Damaging the OLPC project isn’t about competition, it’s about reducing the chances for disadvantaged kids the world over to get something that will help their education.
This isn’t a “marketplace.” Doing the right thing means working with others who are also trying to achieve the same goal. If Intel doesn’t understand this, than it should stick to business and leave acts of good will to people who actually care about helping others first.