It’s a delight to see a widely-respected publication such as The Times (Online) finally telling people the truth about OLPC. The trade journals and Microsoft-obedient press like the Wall Street Journal have been exploited extensively to spread the lies and rewrite history on behalf of Intel and Microsoft. There are clear examples of this where even Intel employees were given room for ‘placements’ that defend themselves. That misuse of literature can hardly be tolerated. It puts society at risk because it prevents future generation from learning about history. It imperils legal justice, too.
Anyway, read the following article and sober up with truths. Having watched the project closely for over two years, I can attest to having the same understanding of what happened. Now it’s time poetic justice.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2005, Nicholas Negroponte, supreme prophet of digital connectivity, revealed a strange tent-like object. It was designed to change the world and to cost $100. It was a solar-powered laptop. Millions would be distributed to children in the developing world, bringing them connection, education, enlightenment and freedom of information. The great, the good, the rich and the technocrats nodded in solemn approval.
And then some of them tried to kill it.
Microsoft, makers of most of the computer software in the world, tried to kill it with words, and Intel, maker of most computer chips, tried to kill it with dirty tricks. Of course, they don’t admit to being attempted murderers. And when I introduce you to Intel’s lovely spokesperson, Agnes Kwan, you’ll realise how far their denials go. But the truth is the two mightiest high-tech companies in the world looked on Negroponte’s philanthropic scheme and decided it had to die.
My Intel spokesperson, Agnes Kwan, seems to exist to evade the issue. I played e-mail ping-pong with her over several days. She was trying to avoid giving me any dates that would show the Classmate came after the XO. This included sending me a bizarre and barely literate “ethnographic” study of computing in the developed world. In the end, all she would say about the timeline of the Classmate was: “It’s hard to pinpoint a start date with the nature of ethnographic research in which ethnographers collect data over a long period of time.” Sorry?
We wrote about this several times before. It’s about OLPC’s need to join hands with the likes of Larry Lessig and fight corruption, not liaise with those who shower in it.
“They try to counter GNU/Linux on low-cost laptops by manufacturing ‘lessons’ on ‘failures’.”To give just one example: Intel sold computers at a loss (dumping) just in order to ensure OLPC could not get a foothold in Nigeria. Going by trade law, this may be illegal and it’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as Intel's crimes go (there are more obvious cases where the company is to be convicted of bribery, too). Intel is now after Nvidia’s lunch because it seeks growth, so sit sight and watch. Nvidia is already complaining, just like AMD. Intel and Microsoft were recently caught engaging in collusion that harms consumers.
There are some other current incidents to remember. Consider what happens with ASUS at the moment. Again, it’s about Intel and Microsoft. They try to counter GNU/Linux on low-cost laptops by manufacturing ‘lessons’ on ‘failures’. The most recent Fiscal indicates that low-cost laptops are among Microsoft’s main threats, so they push the ‘perception’ envelope (FUD). They want their healthy margins back.
“So, you want manufacture and market a Ubuntu-based UMPC? Well, look what happened to OLPC (now running Windows),” Microsoft will insist. It’s especially important to do this where kids are involved. Given enough stories of ‘failures’ that Microsoft can generate, people’s positive perceptions of Free software turn to fear. See the quote below. How many projects of migration to GNU/Linux has Microsoft countered by handing out gratis (or highly-discounted) software and/or equipment, sometimes even funds?
“Ideally, use of the competing technology becomes associated with mental deficiency, as in, “he believes in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and OS/2.” Just keep rubbing it in, via the press, analysts, newsgroups, whatever. Make the complete failure of the competition’s technology part of the mythology of the computer industry. We want to place selection pressure on those companies and individuals that show a genetic weakness for competitors’ technologies, to make the industry increasingly resistant to such unhealthy strains, over time.”
–Microsoft, internal document
You’ve got to admire what Richard Stallman has just said in this new interview about corruption and its impact on society.
From my point of view, business issues are minor in comparison with issues of human rights and general well-being. And I reject completely the assumption that the way to improve people’s well-being is always through a market. A market is a tool, and for some things it’s very good. It can work well in some areas of life, as long as somebody is making sure it doesn’t go haywire. One of the things we see when businesses have too much power is that they corrupt those watchdogs, and we see this in the U.S. all the time. The U.S. government has ceased to effectively monitor the market to make sure it works well. Instead, it is a tool in the hands of big business. So instead of capitalism of a useful kind, we now have extreme capitalism, which is thoroughly corrupt. And the results of that are increasingly bad, here and everywhere else.
Diversionary tactics, holding action, and retreats may each seem contrary to the achievement of the overall objective when considered solely in their own terms, but taken in light of the overall conflict, may contribute to overall success. In the Chinese Civil War that followed World War II, Mao Tse Tung’s Army ran away from every battle, until they won the war. They knew that overall victory, not local victory, was the objective.
Thus it is imperative to measure each action in accordance with its contribution to overall, not just local, victory.
“A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.” This is the mission statement of Microsoft itself; it is the definition of the conditions under which Microsoft itself can declare overall victory.
–Microsoft, internal document