Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Genius of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

The more I hear and read about the OLPC movement the more impressed I am. Taken at face value, it sounds like little more than a shopping trip that will result in yet another consumer age product that gets no exercise.

But that is simply not true and American public school educators better take heed. The OLPC movement is revolutionizing education around the globe with renewed hope and enthusiasm for technology just when this country has abandoned reason, hope, and progress.

The quality of the hardware, the brilliance of the machine to accommodate young children's needs in poor environments, and the nuance's of the software are very impressive.

A recent Daily Techno-babble blog (brought to my attention via reddit.com) lists 3 Reasons Why The OLPC Project has Microsoft Running Scared.
1. Millions of children running Linux.
All silliness aside, the prospect of an entire generation being introduced to computing in a world where Windows simply does not exist is downright horrifying to Microsoft executives. Lack of understanding as to the level of dedication on the part of the OLPC project has lead to 11th hour actions with Intel to rush a competitor to market running Windows. Unfortunately as proposed this Microsoft-Intel version of the ultra-low-cost laptop seems to be not only pricing out significantly higher than the projected $100 (or even the more realistic number of $175) for the OLPC laptop but is also facing stiff resistance due to the very perception that running Windows raises the long term costs beyond what developing nations can support. The bottom line is that the huge potential market penetration of millions of Linux-based laptops can turn the tide against Windows in not just the education markets but also in the broader corporate world as these children grow into adulthood.

2. Windows developers are taking notice.
Now that the OLPC project is really starting to make progress many developers are starting to take notice. Generally there is a strong feeling “on the ground” that Linux is really starting to become not just a server option but an option on mobile, desktop, and the ultra-portable laptop markets. The OLPC project brings the numbers to the table but the efforts on polishing the development tools over the last few years have finally begun to pay off. With other similar operating systems such as Mac OSX beginning to pull market share from Microsoft alongside Linux many forward thinking development teams are starting to see the writing on the wall; start working with Linux now, or suffer later when the broader markets make the jump. Bottom line is that Microsoft will have a hard time wooing developers back onto Windows once they realize that Linux is where the action is at.

3. OLPC is breaking the cost rules.
As many have noticed with the recent Dell Ubuntu Linux offerings, the so-called “Microsoft Tax” seems to be about $50 per system for machines shipped in large quantities. To folks in the developed world this does not sound like an unreasonable amount of money, especially when a single copy sells for $199 (or more). In developing nations even $50 is simply far too much for these users to consider paying in addition to the hardware costs. This situation has generated a significant increase in both piracy and governmental pressures in these parts of the world prompting Microsoft into making some (reluctant) price concessions. That said, this is not news Microsoft shareholders want to hear. With Windows’s market penetration starting to flatten out thanks to Vista’s poor reception things are defiantly not looking good for Microsoft in the long run. Bottom line is that the OLPC project is targeting one of the last remaining growth markets for Microsoft’s products with a price point that is virtually impossible for Microsoft to compete with.
Couple this with the fact that Dell Computer's commercial home page now features Ubuntu, a beautiful, seamless and worthy of consideration (by the average user) Linux and I think we are witnessing a watershed event in computing.

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