Intel has withdrawn from one of the schemes to supply children in the developing world with $100 laptop computers after a dispute with its partners in the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project.
The US technology giant joined OLPC in July after years of public squabbling between Intel chairman Craig Barrett and the not-for-profit group's founder, MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte.
Intel resigned from the board and withdrew its funding and technical help after OLPC demanded the chip-maker stop supporting other efforts in emerging markets.
The low-cost laptop raised public awareness but sparked controversy in the USA because it could be a rival to both Intel and Microsoft. It is based on the free Linux operating system and it features educational software. The low-power XO laptop is built with a microprocessor made by Intel's competitor, Advanced Micro Devices at present.
Intel was to work on a version using an Intel chip.
The OLPC board "had asked Intel to end its support for non-OLPC platforms including the Classmate PC and other systems," an Intel spokesman said.
Mr Negroponte aimed to sell $100 laptops but OLPC began selling them in October for $200 to governments and institutions through a donor programme to finance the programme's launch.
In 2006 Nigeria's government ordered one million XO laptops but because there is now a new government this is being reassessed and only 300 laptops have been delivered. OLPC is now trying to market its laptops to education departments of Nigeria's state governments, rather than the federal government. Apparently six states have already given their commitment to buy 250,000 laptops in 2008 although the state governments have not yet secured the necessary funds.
IDTechEx has been surprised at how much the first versions relied on old technology. Rivals are planned beyond Classmate. As we noted in an earlier article, Asus (which was going to build the Classmate for Intel) has announced a model called "Fee PC" due out later in 2007 with a 7 inch screen it uses Intel's Ultra Mobile CPU chip, comes with a choice of 2GB, 4GB, 8GB or 16GB of flash memory storage, has built in Wi-fi and ethernet, and a camera, for a projected price of $200 for the basic model.
The third potential rival for OLPC is The Indian Institute of Science working with the Government's Semiconductor Complex and the Vellore Institute of Technology to make a laptop that is as cheap as possible. They claim to be able to slash the price to $47, beating the $100 objective of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Daily Telegraph claimed that the Indians aim for $10 but, as the paper notes, such reports should not be used to dismiss the effort in India . "No one is taking any bets."
IDTechEx believes that there will be more contestants, some of them not at all interested in the plight of the poorer countries but seeking to create a new under market in the rich ones. The contestants will probably add other printed technologies to the current partly printed interconnects and the current printed touchpad by ALPS Electric. This is a dual capacitive/ resistive pad that supports written-input mode. They will add printed antennas and printed flexible displays such as colour electrophoretics with printed inorganic compound or organic compound driver TFTs to replace the current glass LCD with aSiºH TFTC driver. Wide area multilayer batteries and photovoltaics will be employed. Then they will print logic, memory, microphones, cameras and loudspeakers. That is the IDTechEx view. A disposable laptop that a five year old can use as a hammer and drop in the toilet but it works afterwards? It will come.
References allafrica.com, telegraph.co.uk
Source of top image OLPC