The laptop war to serve developing nations' children has drawn to a close. The two warring contenders, Intel and the not-for-profit One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization, announced Friday that they will collaborate, with Intel joining OLPC's board.
Under the arrangement, Intel and OLPC will look for ways to market their computers jointly. According to news reports, Intel might sell its low-cost Classmate, which needs an electrical outlet, in urban settings in impoverished countries.
OLPC, on the other hand, might focus on marketing its XO laptops, which are low-powered and can be mechanically recharged by the user, in rural districts. Additionally, software for one laptop will be designed to work on the other.
William Swope, Intel's director of corporate affairs, told Business Week that there "are an awful lot of educational scenarios between K and 12." He added that those scenarios are not "going to be served by any one form factor, by any one technology, by any one product."
Earlier this year in May, OLPC founder and chairman Nicholas Negroponte had harsh words for Intel on CBS Network's 60 Minutes program. In the broadcast, Negroponte accused Intel of "dumping" its Classmate PCs below cost in some of the same countries that OLPC was targeting and said Intel "should be ashamed of itself."
This week, however, Negroponte said in a statement that collaboration with Intel "means that the maximum number of laptops will reach children."
Another low-cost Intel laptop, developed with Taiwan-based motherboard and computer manufacturer Asustek, was announced in June. Critics said at the time that the laptops were built to compete with OLPC's. Called the Eee PC 701, the laptops come in $199 and $299 models that are designed to be sold alongside the Classmate PC.
Craig Barrett, Intel's chairman of the board, said on 60 Minutes that there are "lots of opportunities" for Intel and OLPC to work together. "That's why when you say this is competition, we're trying to drive him out of business -- this is crazy."
The Other War
The heart of Intel's competitive targeting of OLPC, Negroponte had maintained, was that OLPC chose to use a processor made by Intel's arch-competitor, AMD. While Friday's announcement did not indicate any change of processor, Intel's Swope did say that his company is "going to go compete for the XO business, because we think we build first-class silicon."
Walter Bender, OLPC's head of software development, indicated that Intel processors in OLPC products are entirely possible. He told BBC News that his organization "will end up with a family of products," and that "Intel will be part of that mix."
Whatever the eventual mix of products, the OLPC effort has become linked to the idea of a $100 laptop. While the initial price for XO will be about $176 each, the organization has said that the price might drop to $100 eventually.