Update: Intel joins $100 laptop initiative

  • Santa Clara (CA) – Intel today announced that it will join the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative as an active member and effectively competing with AMD to provide at least one key component for the notebook.

    Intel said that it has agreed with OLPC to “work together to bring the benefits of technology to the developing world through synergy of their respective programs.” According to this agreement, Intel may be providing “technology and educational content” and join the board of OLPC.

    “Intel joins the OLPC board as a world leader in technology, helping reach the world’s children. Collaboration with Intel means that the maximum number of laptops will reach children,” said Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, in a prepared statement.

    The announcement came somewhat unexpected, even to Intel employees we talked to, but at a time when Intel begins promoting not only the power efficiency, but also the cost efficiency of its processors. It doesn’t take much to see that OLPC devices would be an effective vehicle for Intel’s upcoming Silverthorne processor – a CPU, which is promised to run at 2 watts or less, while providing the performance of a 90 nm Pentium M processor that can be produced, according to Intel, at the cost of a 286 processor, which was first introduced 25 years ago.  

    While Silverthorne is not explicitly named as a possible processor for the $100 laptop, it could be more than a match for the 700 MHz, AMD Geode LX the only available CPU for the OLPC so far.

    Update 4:26 PM EST

    Will Swope, vice president of corporate affairs at Intel, told TG Daily that the collaboration with OLPC is a result of a conversation between Nicholas Negroponte and Intel CEO Paul Otellini. For Intel to join OLPC, it was matter of “aligning” the company with OLPC – and vice versa. He noted that Intel is already investing more than $100 million per year in educational spending and “helping kids” to get access to computer technology. Swope said that there is no information whether the work with OLPC will increase the educational spending at Intel, but he said the company believes that there will be a greater “output” and “impact” of its efforts as a result of the agreement.

    There are obvious and not so obvious benefits for both parties in this collaboration. It does not come as a surprise that Intel wants to supply hardware to the OLPC: “Of course we want the design win,” Swope said. “If we are not in this product generation, then we want to be in the next one.” Intel will also try to work with the OLPC to expand the OLPC product line to offer more than just one product in the future. This means that Intel will be competing with AMD for hardware supplies, which is an interesting scenario as both AMD and Intel will have members on the OLPC board. While the twoh companies have the same goal to “help children”, situations in which AMD and Intel will shake hands above the table and kick each other below probably cannot be avoided.

    Not so obvious is that Intel intends to provide educational content and provide its experience, which it, for example, gained from training about five million teachers around the world. Also, Intel said that, according to the agreement, Intel will have access to the technology OLPC developed – for a potential use in its own products. Swope declined to comment on which technologies could be interesting for Intel.