Monday, January 22, 2007
I read a great article on the OLPC that Ethan Zuckerman had tried to get published and used it as a briefing before a press conference this morning with Negroponte at the DLD conference (www.dld-conference.com. When we heard figures of 50 million laptops being produced next year, I quizzed him on repair centres and when we would see the first OLPC on e-bay. It seems these laptops are assigned to specific kids and without the "key" the laptop freezes within 48 hours. The whole idea is to make the grey market nonsensical...companies that might steal them would quickly be targeted as having stolen equipment from children.
Negroponte says they will ship 5% to countries that order, to cover the machines that are broken on arrival or breakdown during the lifetime of the machine (nominally 5 years). He couldn't give guarantees that every component has not been made in a sweat-shop (but if they find evidence of this kind of practice they will change suppliers immediately. There will be repair centres as from this year. I think he will keep the first 100 machines and turn them into "the special series", auctioning them off to collectors and putting the money back into development. I have been sceptical in the past- but was impressed by the way Negroponte took the time and trouble to answer questions. He was gracious even though under a lot of pressure from journalists many of whom didn't bother to do their homework. I conclude that they're getting there. It is because Nicolas is in the education business not the laptop manufacturing business. This project is wider than just making laptops.