Intel & One Laptop Per Child: What Happened?

January 8, 2010

You've probably seen the media coverage of Intel and nonprofit organization One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). Intel and OLPC agreed in July 2007 to work together to get cheap laptops into the hands of developing-world children as a way to improve teaching and learning. Intel gained a seat on the OLPC board in the process, as is common in many strategic business-nonprofit partnerships.

But the relationship publicly ended last week. The dispute was prominent in the Wall Street Journal and in the Washington Post, along with a blog post on BusinessWeek.

Intel blames OLPC for trying to force the company to abandon its non-OLPC products in favor of exclusive support of OLPC's “XO” laptop. At the heart of the demand was Intel’s own low-cost laptop, Classmate PC. Not surprisingly, Intel refused to simply shrug off the time, money, and energy it expended to bring Classmate PC to market.

OLPC accuses Intel of thinking only of its profits and for compromising sales of XO, sold for $188, by selling Classmate PC in the same countries. Classmate PC is sold for about $100 more than XO.

The result is what an Intel spokesperson describes as a “philosophical impasse.”

BCLC is working to help the business and nonprofit sectors overcome challenges like these. Here is a set of questions to ask (PDF) when building business-nonprofit partnerships. 

What advice would you give?