Intel backs out of children’s laptop scheme

4 Jan 2008

Intel yesterday left the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project as suddenly as it had joined less than six months ago.

The Santa Clara-based semi-conductor giant had originally agreed to add its expertise and technology to the group of tech companies creating low-cost laptops for children in developing countries.

This exit may come as no surprise to those closely following the progress of OLPC’s XO laptop as Intel had been developing a low-cost children’s notebook of its own prior to joining the project, members of which include eBay, Google and Red Hat.

The chip-making firm said it had reached a ‘philosophical impasse’ with OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte who is a professor with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab.

Chuck Mulloy, a spokesperson for Intel, said the decision to leave had followed Negroponte asking Intel to “exclusively support” the XO machine. However, relationships between OLPC and Intel were reportedly strained following the latter’s absence at a recent board meeting for the project.

Mulloy said Intel couldn’t agree to these exclusive terms as this would mean dropping its own low-cost children’s PC, the Classmate, which retails for US$300 – US$100 more expensive than the XO.

Intel had previously dismissed the XO laptop as a “gadget” before going on to join the support group last July.

While the XO laptop had never used Intel’s processors, using AMD chips from the very beginning instead, Mulloy said this fact had nothing to do with the company’s eventual decision to withdraw its support for the scheme.

By Marie Boran