Posted by: Anonymous Coward
on December 11, 2006 01:40 PM
Hmmm...George Washington University...rings a bell...nesting ground and think tank of future Gartner/Didio wannabees, the anti Free Software, anti Open Source Software, pro closed source, pro dinosaur, pro software patent re-education institution.
The FUD flowing from this report regurgitates the same FUD that MS paid for reports put out about TCO on MS software being cheaper than software for desktops and servers that costs absolutely zero dollars. Imagine if OLPC gave away their laptops? The cost per unit would be astronomical!
There's quite a bit being overlooked by the masses on the OLPC project. There may very well be benefits to providing Internet access to the children of the Congo, to the children of Somalia, to the children of Burma. The benefit factor will even have a multiplying effect in areas of Africa and elsewhere where organizations are providing micro-loans for individuals to start their own small businesses for their benefit and/or the benefit of their communities.
But the bigger benefit, at least initially, will be the cost savings and other benefits for the ability to replace school books, research material, and other documentation with the laptop. With this laptop and Internet access, teachers virtually anywhere can access MIT coursework being placed online for free. Can access any other university's course work currently being placed, or in the planning stages of being placed online for free access. With this laptop and Internet access, the massive documentation projects now underway by Google and others in digitizing books and other documentation for Internet access are accessible. With this laptop, even without Internet access, localities far from Internet access can still set up Intranets where quite a bit of learning material and research material can be set up archived at the intranet central locations.
With this laptop, even without internet access, individual nations can hire researchers to publish e-books for their schools, distributing the e-books electronically to learning institutions throughout their nations, doing away with dead-tree school books, along with the associated costs of purchasing individual copies, distributing them, replacing them when pages tear or they get lost or stolen, and everything else that goes wrong with supplying multiple school texts to school children. All these costs will disappear, especially the costs associated with buying additional copies. By paying researchers a fixed fee for producing a text, then being able to distribute an unlimited number of copies nationwide (or EU wide, or whatever international group-wide), costs savings include royalty payments to authors and unit payments to publishers.
Additional benefits include being able to replace e-books and school text books with updated information on-the-fly instead of providing school texts to rural school children which can be decades upon decades old (even in the US, I recall school texts 20-25 years ago that were 20, 30 and more years old when distributed to us). Also, each child gets a copy of all texts in each laptop, instead of having to share some texts. Also, each child carries just the laptop, instead of carrying multiple text books daily, like happens in some nations.
The access to information is by far the most important benefit for each child and family. This benefits not only the child and family, but both in the short run and long run, is a huge benefit to the individual nations that adopt this project and ensures that the project is seen through to the end to ensure its success.
Let's not forget Mexico's attempt at Linux. The belief was if you supply the population with Linux, they will adopt it instead of staying with the default. So Mexico supplied CDs of Linux to one or a few cities, and the project failed miserably. There was no infrastructure set up to ensure the success of the project.
Contrast Mexico's experience with Linux, with France & Germany's and other nations' support of GNU/Linux. Europe has a far higher adoption rate of GNU/Linux than the US and other nations because the support for the alternate is there. Munich is migrating with proper support. Individuals in Germany and elsewhere, on their own, on their private computers, have a higher adoption rate of GNU/Linux than in the US also. While one can say that Munich includes funding for testing and pilot projects and other expenses which would confirm the George Washington University report on TCO. But in the case of the OLPC, I'd say the opposite would be true. Cash savings on fewer texts being distributed would be an immediate tangible savings and benefit. Another immediate benefit would be replacing aging texts with the newest editions of the e-texts. An intangible but obvious benefit would be the immediate access to a huge additional amount of learning and teaching material.
Keep in mind the MS/Linux wars. As MS is precluded from increasing market share because of migrations of Unix to Linux instead of migrations of Unix to Windows, they ratcheted up the rhetoric to an unprecented level. Just as Google stock was going to be offered to the public, immediately after entering the "quiet period" where Google couldn't respond to attacks, the financial community went into overdrive attacking Google on everything from unit price per share being too high to whether they were worth anything at all, to the possible demise of classified advertising, to the threat that Yahoo posed to the company. They succeeded in lowballing the opening price on the stock for their initial offering. Look where Google stock is now.
As reality hits MS (and Intel) and it becomes more and more likely that OLPC is winning contracts and manufacturing units for shipment in the millions, the louder the rhetoric will get, the more we will see reports such as this that attempt to dispell the OLPC unit in favor of their own, the more we will see reports that somehow attempt to show that the Intel/MS solution is the better and more economical choice.