What Led to the OLPC-Intel Split?
n mid-December, in the hip, Frank Gehry-designed IAC building in New York, Intel held a small gathering for a dozen or so journalists to preview the corporation's planned showcase at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Curiously missing: any mention of a much-anticipated, low-cost laptop, called the "XO," for children in developing countries, featuring an Intel microprocessor, with hardware designed by the Santa Clara, Calif.-based nonprofit, One Laptop Per Child. The company had been planning to launch it at CES.
In hindsight, the omission seems prophetic. Intel spokesperson Chuck Mulloy tells BusinessWeek that the company was still working on the prototype for the Intel-OLPC laptop and wasn't ready to show it to the press in advance. However, leading up to CES, a furious public spat between OLPC's founder, Nicholas Negroponte, a professor on leave from MIT and cofounder of the famed MIT Media Lab, and the chipmaker erupted when Intel first notified Negroponte via e-mail on Jan. 3 that Intel was bowing out of the project. The feud highlights the tumultuous history of OLPC, just as the nonprofit issued the official results of its recent "Give One, Get One" sales promotion, and as Negroponte prepared to give a high-profile speech at CES on Jan. 9 as the closing talk of CES's program, "Technology and Emerging Countries: Advancing Development Through Technology Investments."