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Of course, communication infrastructure is one of the first targets of any invading military force to control or destroy. Therefore, one may say, a nationwide cellular network would not survive the depredations of any military force.


I'm not sure I understand the purpose of the parable. It seems like it might have been easier to do a one-paragraph recap of the the OLPC and the various commercial biggies but what the hell.

You are absolutely correct that any political analysis requires an analysis of the constituencies. But that means you'd better do a good job of identifying the constituencies and I don't think you have. Parents and teachers, however awful it may be to accept, are at the bottom of the heap in terms of ability to effect the public education system. Who's seeking input from some poor Indian mommy or daddy about whether to go with the OLPC, Eee or some local sprout? Who's asking that question of the local school teachers? The answer in both cases is no one. So as a constituency they lack the means to effect the process in any meaningful and timely way which means they're a constituency that can be safely ignored.

The constituency that does matter, especially in the case of the XO, is the political class of the various nations. The prime minister or the minister of education or whoever. Since they're politicians all the decisions pertaining to the XO will have a big political component. That's as it should be. These are the people who'll decide whether and under what circumstances the XO should be purchased. If it's a democratic country then the value of the XO has to be weighed against the possible repercussions at the next election. If it's an authoritarian regime it's more likely to be a choice between XO's and F-18's.

In any case, all the elements of a political decision come into play. There'll be compromises hammered out that, at midnight to get someone to sign, seemed acceptable and will prove to be, in the cold light of the following morning, pretty stupid. But that's the nature of politics and a compromise that leaves no one completely satisfied means the system works.

There'll be flat rejection after an election where there was support. There'll be a demagogue, somewhere, who's bright enough to see the XO as an opportunity to gain power by whipping up fear about a U.S. takeover of the education system or something equally unlikely but salable to the local man-in-the-street.

But if you're banking on the parents and teachers to act as a counterweight to Microsoft and Intel then you haven't given the situation enough thought. How do you, or how should Nick Negroponte, identify, contact, inform and direct this constituency so as to counteract MS and Intel? Using XO's? Using the local newspapers? Saying (writing) it is one thing, making it happen quite another.

My prediction is that as the bills are present the various recipients will change their minds. When the countries involved have to write a check that'll clear, a BIG check that'll clear, second thoughts will prevent them from doing so.

That causes me to wonder what agreement Quanta has with regard to manufacturing XO's for retail sales? If you can't get Egypt to buy 'em maybe you can sweet talk Wallmart into purchasing fifty or sixty thousand XO's.

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About Lee Felsenstein

  • Based in Silicon Valley, Lee currently does electronic product development, due diligence, expert witness assistance as well as speaking engagements and participation in conferences such as the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conferences. The most unusual places he has spoken were at the Waag in Amsterdam and a squat in Milan, Italy. He was named the 2007 "Editor's Choice" in the Awards for Creative Excellance made by EE Times magazine. He holds 12 patents to date.