Innovation and confusion

XO-2 Laptop AI read some exciting news today. OLPC project revealed its plans for the next generation of the “$100 laptop.” It looks really neat and i think has a number of really innovative ideas. For example, the double touch screen one part of which can also be used as a keyboard, sound really fascinating. Reading about it makes me really wanting one.

Then, as i continued reading, i got confused, particularly by looking at the feedback provided by people who own the current version of XO (read the comments here for example). It seems like while concentrating on technical innovation, the OLPC crew neglected mundane things such as production, service, and implementation. Although XO-1has been deployed, it seems too soon to conclude this phase as successful. Particularly with the recent changes iXO-2 Laptop Bn the project’s leadership and the ongoing debate about the identity of OLPC as a technological vs. educational project, there are still a lot of question marks. One of the more obvious ones is whether or not it will be relevant by the target date of 2010 with the recent exposure of low-cost laptops.

So, at the end of the day, i think the ideas in XO team are rather brilliant (looks like they can also design in an Apple style!) and i truly hope they will be also capable of translating this innovation into substantive change.


4 Responses to “Innovation and confusion”

  1. Josh Braun Says:

    What do you think of their Microsoft deal? I know there was some chatter about whether the fact that the computers were being distributed with Linux might improve Linux’ market share. I guess the computers will still be packaged with it, but if Windows is also available, I dunno that Linux’ advantage will be as great.

    It sort of goes along with the Open Democracy post you sent awhile back about Microsoft’s new strategy of trading revenue for market share.

  2. Dima Says:

    I think there is still a debate going on about the MS deal. Some people think it is the end of the project. I also posted a short comment about it earlier.

    I understand the pressure for having an MS option there, but i do think that it comes at a cost of the creativity and innovation. If i had to speculate, i think a better handling of XO-1 deployment would put OLPC project in a stronger position to argue for its own software solution. Now, going with MS is part of their project survival i guess.

  3. Josh Braun Says:

    Thanks. Read the other post and I like your take. Incidentally, do you know how close-ended the Linux distro is that the computers are coming with? I remember looking at the Asus EE-PC, which also runs its own Linux flavor, and taking note of how pre-packaged the operating system seemed. That’s not suprising, of course—I’m sure Asus wanted the product to be consumer-friendly. While I’m sure no developer would have any problem modding the OS on an EE-PC, and a lot of geeks are buying them for that reason, the interface itself isn’t really an invitation for the novice to tinker.

    I’m wondering if the OLPC OS is this way or not. On the one hand, you’d hope it has great ease-of-use, so that the barrier to entry is low for new users. At the same time, there would also be benefits to having something that invites users “under the hood,” so they develop the technical skills necessary to “leap-frog,” as you said, the Microsoft paradigm.

  4. Dima Says:

    Unfortunately, no. I haven’t had a chance to play with XO and all i know is from reading about it. Could be nice to actually work with one… I suspect though, that it is similar to the Asus model as these machines are explicitly aimed to people who have no experience with this kind of technology at all.

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