I never thought I'd be a beneficiary from the OLPC project. I'd never be able to use an OLPC for anything I do.
But I love how the project has put a bent in the technical landscape of portable devices industry. It was a failure
as an education project perhaps, but it succeeded in more than one way as a laptop research project.
When OLPC came out in 2007, the laptops were on a lap-melting, back-breaking rush towards bigger & faster. Nearly
everything came in with a Core2 or a Core2 Duo, with lots of RAM (yeah, guess what you can't save power on, RAM
needs a strobe whether it has data or not). The fact that OLPC came out in 2007, sort of forced the geeks to
look at weight as a valid concern for a consumer device. Not to mention questions about why a 1995 top-end laptop
ran for 4 hours on batteries, when a 2005 one won't do the same at the same weight.
Less than a year after OLPC came the rush of netbooks. Finally machines that people can afford to buy (like
here in India) and carry around without being tied to a wall plug. Scroll paste a few years, it is not
only consumers, using them. I see Rasmus
post PHP benchmarks off his netbook, I see entire teams (like Inkscape) suddenly sit up and re-work their
UI workflows/dialog-space for it. I see the Notion Ink use OLPC Pixel Qi tech in the new tablet.
Socially speaking, the project has been a great failure. But technologically, it has left a huge
impact on portable devices everywhere. As for the former, the project probably forgot that
"Charity begins at Home". Refusing to sell full-price to americans wanting them shows a complete
lack of understanding of how economies of scale & price segmentation would've worked out.
I'm not going to mourn the failure of Negroponte, but I'll just give the technical folks at
OLPC a big thumbs-up.
I'll happily pay 200$ for an arm netbook'ish if they'll sell me one in India. Hell, I'll even
fix all the things that don't work for me - for FREE. Not all of us are poor & in need of a
hand-out. Heck, I'm at the verge of putting in a pre-order for a Notion Ink Adam, for double
the price, if the hype pans out.