Tuesday, September 25, 2007

OLC Laptop - New Marketing Plan

Recall those green laptops designed for kids in developing countries (the one-laptop-per-child scheme)? Well, a few months ago I blogged that the Lead Users or "Problem Pioneers" for this innovative product are invariably not those for whom the laptop was invented to help: poor children. Today OLC announced a marketing plan for the laptop that seems to capitalize on this realization:
The marketing program, to be announced today, is called “Give 1 Get 1,” in which Americans and Canadians can buy two laptops for $399.

One of the machines will be given to a child in a developing nation, and the other one will be shipped to the purchaser by Christmas. The donated computer is a tax-deductible charitable contribution. The program will run for two weeks, with orders accepted from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26.
So Jotman will get his green laptop and -- in theory -- so will a poor child. But I don't expect the child will be using the laptop for long -- assuming he or she actually ever sees it. Most likely, that laptop is going straight onto the black market (as I blogged here).

The original OLC distribution scheme smacked of headstrong idealism. As I explained in the post, it was at odds with the economic reality of life in the developing world. But at least OLC has now come up with a plan that is sure to give this very promising and exciting technology a chance to see the light of day.

And it just got much easier to agree with computer research pioneer Alan Kay, who said of OLC: "I’m an optimist that this will eventually work out." My italics.

Further Comment:
But one paragraph from the Times article on OLC has me scratching my head. It makes me wonder if the OLC isn't just way too out of touch to make a go of it:
Staff members of the laptop project were concerned that American children might try the pared-down machines and find them lacking compared to their Apple, HP, or Dell laptops. Then, in this era of immediate global communications, they might post their criticisms on Web sites and blogs read around the world, damaging the reputation of the XO Laptop, the project staff worried.

So the laptop project sponsored focus-group research with American children, ages 7 to 11, at the end of August.
The hypothesis is ridiculous. To think they bothered to focus-group-it! If people who think like this are running OLC, it's a wonder they even got this far.