CES - OLPC would welcome Intel back

OLPC said it would welcome Intel back after a recent falling out.

The One Laptop Per Child Project would welcome Intel back if the chip maker returned to the group, the head of OLPC said Tuesday.

The statement came just days after Intel quit the group's board of directors over what it said was OLPC's insistence that it abandon a rival low-cost laptop developed by Intel, the Classmate PC. OLPC has said it asked no such thing of Intel, and that it welcomes the Classmate PC because the more low-cost laptops there are available, the more likely they'll get into the hands of children in the developing world.

"It was very unfortunate what happened with Intel and I hope there's a way of rebuilding it in the future because there's no interest in OLPC pushing Intel out. It just is not in our interest. Our goal is to get this to as many children as possible," said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC, in an interview.

He called it unfortunate that Intel made statements that OLPC asked the chip maker to stop working on the Classmate PC. "The picture that painted was one of OLPC being anti-competition, which is ridiculous. We'd like to see as many laptops out there as possible and kids have the widest choice possible," he said.

Intel would be willing to talk with OLPC, said Agnes Kwan, an Intel manager. But she added that the organizational break-up came about because of differences that the groups have been so far unable to resolve.

The OLPC Project started as an attempt to build a US$100 laptop aimed at kids in poor nations, but the laptop from the group, the XO, will likely end up costing nearly double that amount, initially. The organizers of the effort, led by academics and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), hope heavy volume sales of the laptops will drive down costs.

The goal of OLPC is to make sure nobody misses out on the benefits of computing. The fear is that the price of a PC is keeping too many people in developing countries from learning how the software, Internet and communications benefits of computing can improve their economies, job prospects and lives, or that poor countries will fall further and further behind the modern world due to their inability to access computers, a conundrum commonly referred to as the digital divide.

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Dan Nystedt

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