OLPC; One Laptop Per Child. What a great idea, children in the third world don’t need food, water and healthcare they need a computer! As everyone will remember; professor Negroponte of MIT made it his mission to put $100 laptop computers in the hands of children growing up in the third world and developing nations “It’s an education project, not a laptop project.” The problem is Intel have seen the markets potential and are swooping in to compete with their ‘Classmate’ low cost laptop.

Professor Negroponte said Intel has hurt his mission “enormously” while Intel responded in saying “We’re not trying to drive him out of business, we’re trying to bring capability to young people”.

It really does seem that this is a true clash of ideals–just take a look at the specs:

OLPC Intel Classmate
433Mhz AMD Geode 900Mhz Intel Mobile ULV
256MB DDR333 256MB DDRII
7.5” 1200×900 Dual Mode LCD 7” 880×480 LCD
802.11b/g WiFi + LAN 802.11b/g WiFi + LAN
1GB SLC NAND Flash storage 1/2GB NAND Flash storage
Linux Windows XP Pro / Linux

Its pretty much swings and roundabouts when it comes to RAM, storage and connectivity but the other areas couldn’t be more different. In the CPU stakes Intel have clearly decided to flex a little muscle in the face of their counterpart (namely AMD not OLPC)—the only problem is higher power consumption. If both machines are running Linux then you may be able to say that the additional CPU power isn’t justified; with Windows running on the Classmate you can be sure the extra grunt doesn’t do any harm. Display wise the OLPC has clearly chosen a superior component. Although only 0.5” larger in size; the substantially higher resolution will be a massive benefit and the reflective mode of operation will again reduce power consumption. The biggest difference is obviously the choice of operating system. OLPC is only available running Linux where as the Classmate is offered with either Linux or Windows XP. A small detail that should be mentioned is the Classmate costs twice the price of the OLPC!

Clearly Intel has seen a market and wants to compete. It should be interesting to see how this all pans out; recent reports suggest Intel have launched a Classmate pilot program in India—a country which has snubbed the OLPC quite publicly.