Thursday, November 29, 2007

Talk of the Nation

OLPC's Negroponte was on NPR this afternoon, on Talk of the Nation. Some Wall Street Journal reporter was using the word "derailed" and Nicholas was more like "on track."

Lynn Neary wondered why the pissing match, let's just come out with the best laptop possible, for the lowest price possible.

Lynn's question was a good one, and I think the XO, which none mentioned by name, even when extolling its features, provides a clear answer: it's very much not for everyone, by design.

"One size fits all" is simply not a good approach. That's why we look forward to Intel's next entries, other brands. Monoculture means "all eggs in one basket" -- not a smart business model when innovation is critical.

The current XO is all about a minimalist new Python GUI (Sugar) atop Red Hat Linux with a Smalltalk (Squeak) image for eToys and maybe Croquet type stuff (i.e. immersive communications with a peer group, what you need right after you get an avatar).

That's a pretty specific architecture, very alien to most cube farmers, plus it's very geared for children, is deliberately not so adult friendly (like the keys are too small, plus it's Shrek- colored).

So yes, the XO is very niche market, a bold experiment, not too shabby a debut (a great flagship).

We're only 300K units into it, and already we're learning a ton about what it takes to sustain critical mass around such projects.

Judging by the success of the XO, I'm seeing Python 3.x as well positioned to get some heavy duty, real world Unicode workouts. Such trials by fire are just what it takes to anneal a language, make it robust enough to withstand the tests of time. So kudos to Guido for strategic positioning.

The rest of the interview got somewhat bogged down in yesteryear's business headlines, all about Linux versus Windows. That's not really front page news any more. Wall Street needs to figure out a new spin or new angle. That "dot commie" thing gets stale after awhile.