OLPC exec to Third World customers: Grow some balls and buy our machines

The BBC gets the story here. Walter Bender of OLPC bashes politicians who are balking on placing huge orders for the XO machine. Bender’s take is they’re just holding off because they’re chickenshits.

The minister of education in Nigeria says it’s not about being cowardly, it’s about being sensible: “What is the sense of introducing One Laptop per Child when they don’t have seats to sit down and learn; when they don’t have uniforms to go to school in, where they don’t have facilities?”

You have to admit the guy’s got a point. No way, says Bender. “You’ve got to be big, you’ve got to be bold. And what has happened is that there has been an effort to say ‘don’t take any risks – just do something small, something incremental’. It feels safe but by definition what you are ensuring is that nothing happens.”

Bender goes on to say that the issue for OLPC has never been about which processor the machine uses or what operating system it runs. Which is interesting because Katie talked to the guys from the Wall Street Journal who wrote that that devastating takedown on OLPC which I blogged about here and the Journal guys say some of their juiciest stuff got left on the cutting room floor, including this quote from Walter Bender: “If we ship Windows natively on this machine, I will resign.” And these from Nicholas Negroponte: “The lack of Windows on this machine is killing me.” “The Intel Classmate is killing me.”

FWIW our user interface design guys say the Sugar user interface that Professor Bender designed for the XO machine is a friggin nightmare. Nobody who has ever used a computer before can figure it out. (Can’t you just hear Bender and Negroponte saying, “Yes, but that’s exactly why it’s so brilliant! It’s unlike anything ever created before!”)

Weirder still, according to Katie, the Journal had this whole story more or less buttoned up a couple of weeks ago, but chose not to run it until the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. Surely this could not be because Negroponte sits on the Journal’s advisory board and the paper buried the story to help him out? Katie says there’s some bitching about that but she doesn’t believe it. Neither do I. My take is that the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend just seemed like the best time to run the story.

Also worth noting in the BBC story are Bender’s comments about there being some deep vast conspiracy to spread misinformation about the XO machine. Just for kicks, however, please notice that whenever I write critically about OLPC we get anonymous pro-OLPC comments which seem just a tad too professionally written. See the comments on this story for example. Who could be doing that, I wonder?