The age of altruism or just business as usual

If anyone has been following the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) drama it really makes you think about perception.  Perception has always and will always be the key to marketing any company.  I’m finding that the newest drama is the competition from Intel and Microsoft over needy children.  The OLPC is supposed to bet the “$100 laptop.”  It is supposed to be a cheap way to get computers to deprived countries and children.  Their plan is to also offer it to the everyday person and when they buy it they a PC gets donated to a developing country.  A very altruistic goal to say the least.

Here’s where the sharks enter the pool because they realize there are a lot of guppies.  Microsoft starts talking about building a “Classmate PC.”


The real problem in Microsoft’s view is the fact that the OLPC runs Linux.  Microsoft couldn’t fear the growth of Linux more.  I’m sure that a million Microsoft zealots would love to debate that point but nothing helps Linux more than the idea of community behind it. It’s dripping wet with the altruistic mentality.  Linux taking over the server market slowly is almost acceptable but the desktop?  They already have enough competition from Mac on the desktop. Vista’s huge failure with anyone that knows better is fueling Mac and Linux.

Microsoft is no dummy though.  What do they do?  Jump on the bandwagon of “Let’s help the children.”  It gives Microsoft zealots a flag to wave.  It gives Microsoft the illusion of caring more about the people.  It also,  a good way to get the best marketing their is: Free marketing from the news.

History tends to repeat itself.  Right now we are heading for a 70’s movement developing hippies and flower children out of business men. Everybody wants to go “Green” now.  Automobile makers are thinking about how to save the planet through alternative fuels in the same way.  Big business wants to jump on board quick.

Don’t be fooled people.  For the same reason electric cars were always the ugliest cars Microsoft isn’t truly jumping into the classmate PC.  To care more about community would make them open the source code to some of their products.  It couldn’t hurt much.  They own most of the market.  Here’s an idea for them. Open the source code to something very off-beat like Visio.  It’s not a product that really effects the bottom line too much but it really makes it look like a serious effort. The average person doesn’t use it but after it’s free and open more people may want to outside of the networking community.

Trust me, I understand all sides.  I don’t mind Microsoft making it’s money.  That’s what America is all about.  However, altruism, community, and green living should be what humans are all about and that’s what open source and Linux are.  My mother was an art teacher so I grew up art and the joys of it so I understand how Apple thinks: Design and user experience are the joys of computing.  I get it.  However, if you’re going to pretend like you care… Please!  Really care.

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