Posted by: sarahmeyers | January 26, 2008

OLPC Should be an Example to Apple

I’m an advocate of OLPC. Nicholas Negroponte say’s OLPC is an education project, not a cheap laptop project. Steve Wozniak donated to the project and bought one with the “give one get one” deal. What does Steve Jobs do? I hate to say he turns his back.

Nicholas was co-founder of the MIT media laboratory and professor of media technology at MIT. He’s author of the 1995 best selling book, “Being Digital,” is on the board of directors for Motorola, and partner in a venture capital firm. He invested in Wired magazine! Now he is focused on the OLPC project and advocates open source digital technologies. I believe in open source. Nicholas Negroponte and Steve Wozniak believe in open source. So why can’t Steve Jobs join them with his Macintosh operating software? What’s the point in keeping it closed?

I got my hands on the OLPC while at CES. From looking at it, some people think it can’t do much as a notebook. It’s clear to me that it’s doing more for our culture than any other computer around. The global community benefits from open source projects and I encourage them. Students are going to get their hands on these laptops and view them as learning toys. It looks like a toy too.

The laptop has a hinge that they call the “transformer hinge” because it changes from a classic laptop to a book reader and acts as an antenna. OLPC’s ODM, Quanta Computer made a strong case for the versatility of having the transformer hinge. From what I saw it’s the one part of the design that makes it look cheap. While the press has always talked about it as the “100 dollar laptop,” in a way defines the product, the company does not want cheap as part of their image. I think they should start with a redesign in order to achieve their goal.

What’s more important than design is opening it up. This is what Steve Wozniak has to say, “I was on a panel with Nicholas in Seoul this year and admired the fact that he’d turned down an offer from Jobs for the Macintosh OS on the OLPC because it wasn’t open sourced. I both donated to the program and also bought the give-one get-one and I do have it. I have it charged and on my home network but haven’t had time to use it enough yet. I wanted to switch part of my computer life, maybe web, to it, but not yet.”

Dear Steve Jobs, You want to make a lot of money and everyone can understand that. But, please stand up with us on this subject even if you don’t integrate it. Thanks.



  1. Steve Jobs lately just seems like he is getting too money hungry and thinks that every product is going to be gold.. I love Apple well I love to hate them. I love my MBP, but i would wish i could run Leopard on a Sony that would be amazing, or Steve could use some of his money to help out more instead of making an over expensive world’s smallest laptop with an ipod drive. I like Bill Gates and how he is showing other Companies to be a Great CEO and give back and even if you are not a Windows Vista fan you have to admire the “Good” that Bill Gates does. Hmmm may have to look into a Vista machine some day.. Uh oh I just heard a Million Apple Angels cry..


  2. Who blames Apple? Keeping it closed makes them $$$$$$$$$$$$!

  3. Yes it’s all about the Gates Foundation these days.

  4. @dizil I like how Bill Gates is setting a good example donating his time and money. I could not agree more about Steve Jobs. He could do more.

  5. Open-Source is the way to go, I wish Steve Jobs could do a tad bit of something for the OLPC, I doubt it that he’d ever let the mac OS be open sourced and be used for the’s too much to ask from him. But it sure will help a lot if he does contribute – at least.. something.
    I’m from Pakistan and it’s one of the countries interested in the OLPC project, from what I last read, the people heading the project here have asked help from local software developers for the localisation of the OLPC project to Urdu (the national language) and the languages used in native provinces, as majority of the population doesn’t have any conversancy with the English Language. Anyhow, I love the idea.. and I really hope it becomes a success soon in the developing countries. 🙂
    Sarah, I was wondering..did you use the toy?

  6. I wonder if Macintosh OS could have collaborated to make just one type of OLPC that’s closed how Apple wants it. That might have been cool to see.

  7. @Omar Farooki- I didn’t use the computer to connect with any other computers, but I did play around with it a little.

    It has a cool music feature that lets you write and compose your own music kinda like Garage Band.

  8. Although not an exact mirror to the OLPC project, Apple did bring out a low cost educational computer in Feb/1997. This was the eMate 300, a low cost computer at $800 (this price is low in 1997 comparative terms at the time) based on the Newton OS.

    And then in 1998, Jobs essentially kills the Newton and eMate product line. What is it with Steve and the education market. Apple was well entrenched in this market throughout the 80’s and 90’s and today seems to be fighting back to gain what they have lossed over the past 10 years.

    Yes it would seem that when Jobs took over, Apple has focused solely on the $$$.

    Funny how we all evangelize Steve Jobs with innovation and forethought, and assume and hope that somehow he has a charitable heart. Thinking back over his career, I really don’t remember that kind of Steve Jobs.

  9. @Spaceguy, people do come down on Steve Jobs a lot, but given the way he treats bloggers I don’t blame them. Did you hear what he said to Violet Blue? Wow!

    Apple has done a lot, but when people research Steve Jobs they will find his track record too and it does not go to say that he does nothing, but like I said he could do more.

  10. Over 20 years ago, Apple launched one of the most fantastic computer-based educational research environments, the “Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow” (ACOT). While an Apple Fellow at Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, Alan Kay launched the Vivarium program, a “curriculum … designed to encourage children to think more about thinking”; I was lucky to meet some members of these programs while working at the European Apple Learning Lab in the late 80’s. These people were really fantastic, die hart educators, who knew personal computers could also become empowering learning tools.
    The ACOT project was unfortunately nixed 10 years ago, and I’m afraid the willing to share knowledge with everyone that once thrived at Apple has now moved to friendlier places. Since the OLPC and the “Hole-in-the-Wall” are definitely such places, me seems… let’s contribute and stop waiting for the richest ones to start giving!

  11. I know with the green & white & the rubber keyboard it does look a bit of a toy, but seriously, I wish I could get my hands on one of those over in the UK, see if I can get Ubuntu or BSD running on it. Will they be extending the buy one get one deal to other 1st world countries besides the States? Us Brits like to give to charity too , y’know (even if we do all sound like movie villains… muahaha!) 😉

  12. I agree, Jobs should do more

  13. Just what poor children need…a computer. Who needs food & a stable environment when you have a cheap PC!!!

  14. Raising money with small donations will do more. Look at Ron Paul, for example.

  15. Actually Sarah, Apple has been a big contributor to open source. OS X is built on many open source projects and regularly provides improved code to those projects. Safari and the open source Webkit project is a prime example. Now other companies, including Nokia use a better Web browser in part because of Apple’s contributions to the Webkit open source project.

    Apple can and does contribute to many open source projects without needing to release the entire Mac OS X as open source. In fact releasing the whole finished OS X as open source would kill the company (no one would buy Mac hardware, which is where Apple makes most of it’s money) and stop the positive contributions that Apple is able to make under the current setup.

  16. This laptop looks like a joke. It only costs 100 dollars? There are competitive prices to that.

  17. I agree with @Lewis, Apple has done so much to help humanity.

  18. Check your facts before dumping on Apple. Steve Jobs actually offered the Mac OS to the project but it was rejected.
    Big News…99.9999% of the worlds richest people have not contributed to the OLPC project – They must be all against it!!.
    Dumb article by someone who has no understanding about developing products, third-world problems and the sickness of the Western worlds largesse.

  19. @ Lewis I agree with you and appreciate all the information you and @Jean-Marie Moes provided in the comments. I would love to do a more extensive report on what Apple has done.

    Apple has done a lot, but I still think they could do more.

    @flintwall- President Bush awarded me an honor for 3rd world community service in 2003. I spent time helping and educating others in 3rd world environments. I have lived it and know what it’s like to live in poverty where you sleep in shackles covered in bugs. yuck.

    And I’m proud of my achievement award for the most community service dedication provided to a 3rd World country in 2003.

    What have you done to help flintwall?

  20. All I have to say is that OLPC is a great idea and there will be many more affordable computers. I support organizations that give laptops to students and Apple does a lot to help support schools.

  21. Flintwall, Before you chastise Sarah with your company line, look at how Apple got it’s name in the Marin Independent Journal. In 2005 the Reed school district gave its students on a 1-1 basis a free Apple iBook laptop computer. Sounds good on the surface, however, Tiburon is one of the most affluent areas in the San Francisco Bay Area; if not the nation/world. Great going Steve Jobs, help out all the rich kids who don’t need any assistance in the purchase of a computer!

  22. Anyone who thinks Apple is a “generous” company is smoking something. They would have charged a mint to put OS X on the OLPC, not to mention the whole point of it was to teach kids about technology-let them tinker with Linux.
    @sarah: Which country did you help out? Was this through something like the Peace Corps?

  23. @Jacob1915, I was given a scholarship from Summer Search to help out in Mexico. It was a great experience!

  24. “President Bush awarded me an honor for 3rd world community service in 2003. I spent time helping and educating others in 3rd world environments. I have lived it and know what it’s like to live in poverty where you sleep in shackles covered in bugs. yuck.”
    Oh puleese…
    Yeh, I can see how that makes you an expert. Two weeks just off uncle Sam’s doorstep.

    Ok Sarah, sarcasm filter on…

    The world is a much bigger place than either you or I can pretend to address with glib sounding formula and that goes for the OLPC initiative too. Yes the project comes high on the developed nations guilty conscience and no doubt will garner well meaning praise around the corridors of the UN and it’s subscribers but don’t kid yourself that it is anything else but an imposition in the third world countries that are also signed up to the initiative.
    It will result in a massive foreign currency shortage in every country that implements and endorses the initiative.
    It will not be available/appropriate for the vast majority of the under privileged masses who inhabit urban slums, tribal cultures, nomadic peoples or the displaced victims of the countless civil wars raging around the planet.
    It will divert already sparse resources away from grass roots efforts to feed the war-torn starving refugee masses of Africa and South America, already stretched beyond viability.
    It will inevitably be sponsored by various government agencies who will have their own agenda far removed from the reality of daily survival.

    “What have you done to help flintwall?”

    I am a founder member of the Building Limes Forum who through their Italian affiliates, send members to many African countries to promote the use of traditional ‘low-tech’ building solutions. We recognised the need for traditional building solutions where valuable resources were being spent importing millions of tons of cement from the developed nations. We provide the expertise and knowledge to enable rural communities to build affordable housing, schools and community buildings without the need to buy foreign goods and technology, using locally available materials and resources.
    We currently have teams in Morocco, Sudan, Egypt, Liberia, Chad, Nigeria, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zaire…. in fact, we have done projects in over 40 nations in Africa, 6 in South America and 5 in the Middle East. Yes, we are currently in Iraq on the Turkish border.
    Our affiliates come from most of the EU and also the US. We have no official governmental status since we do not feel good about state funding whether it be from our home countries or the host nation, which inevitably comes with strings attached and associated costs. I have run approx. 20 projects in north east Africa – Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, enabling many refugee people to house themselves and their families without relying on western aid, technology and ‘non renewable’ resources. We raise our own personal project funds to support ourselves whilst in the field and the employment of a local guide/translator.
    Why are we taking low tech solutions into rural areas where they have used them for centuries?… well it seems that the relentless push from the developed nations to modernise third world infrastructure, has lead to a dearth of traditional knowledge and skills – they’ve all gone to the city to earn a living.
    Over the last 15 years, I’ve seen countless foreign aid projects, international educational schemes and well meaning charitable aid organisations, come and go. They inevitably leave behind a greater reliance on foreign aid finance, technology and, worst of all, imported initiatives.
    I sincerely hope some good comes from the OLPC initiative but it’s not a very encouraging scenario viewed from the third world.

  25. Wow, @flintwall sounds like he has a lot of experience.

  26. Wow,

    Certainly is a lot of negative speculation and ambiguity going on around here.

    Surely there must be more than one way for people to get to the top of the Maslow pyramid from the third world other than at a micro level laying bricks and promoting isolationism as some of the posts here suggest.

    Not to infer that the OLPC project is the end all answer of course, as there is really no one size fits all solution for the third worlds problems.

    But hey, If someone prefers to work the problem at the micro level I don’t have a problem with that. More power to you,

    However why cast stones at the people trying to work at the macro level bringing additional visibility towards the issue. You have a common cause.

    Slinging mud does not create a positive image for ones goals it only alienates your potential supporters.

    On the matter of CEO support

    Yes, I agree that we should have more CEO”S and corporate execs backing this project.

    At least buy one laptop.. gees you guys take home a seven figure salary’s like buying a damn cup of designer coffee for you guys for crying out loud

    Sarah, tnx for the story and the opportunity to comment I look forward to the next one!!

  27. @Nick Winters- Certainly “CEOs” should do more, but isn’t that why they have PR? Don’t they pay people to do these things for their image?

    Look at Steve Wozniak- he’s got a great image, too bad he’s not a CEO.

  28. […] news – check this out as […]

  29. […] news – check this out as […]

  30. Why’d they have you sleep in shackles? Were they afraid you’d run off or something? 😉

  31. Haha! Looks like a whole new story really came out in the comments about you, Sarah.

  32. Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison are notorious around the valley for being miserable human beings to deal with. Being a good CEO doesn’t make you a good person. You would think there would be tons of public works projects around the valley with the wealth created. Hmmm, why is is that the most impressive projects are by people in the valley from 30 years ago like the Hewlitts and David Packard. A very sad statement about the greed in the valley today.

  33. @flintwall, to wrap things up I appreciate your comment even if it is sarcastic because I do understand what you are saying, but in my defense it was much longer than 2weeks “off.”

    Regards to you and your experience. It kind of reminds me of a site I think you should check out called KIVA. It lets you loan money to people who live in 3rd world countries and are working.

    If you would like to know more then please watch the first video in this blog post:

    There are many different websites that allow a simple donation from the average joe to go a long way.

    Bill Clinton said in 07 that sites like KIVA are creating a financial solution in a time of world crisis. Sometimes we have to look past the US and see there are bigger problems in the world. The best part is you and I both can help.

  34. wVUrO6 hi nice site man thx

  35. Thank you

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