Quit, Bicker, Fight Over The OS. OLPC!

The One Laptop Per Child project is in kind of a muddle. Their "$100" laptop costs $188; not many ended up in the hands of children around the world they were supposed to help; and now the number two man, Walter Bender, who oversaw content and software for the OLPC has resigned. It's  not clear if it's the factor that drove the decision, but the true believers at OLPC are hardcore open-source software enthusiasts, and don't like the decision to run some form of Windows on the laptops instead of continuing to develop OLPC's  own software, called "Sugar."

Officially, OLPC said it was streamlining its organization because the laptop's technology essentially had been built. A different view came from the XO's former top security architect, Ivan Krstic, who wrote on his blog that Bender got demoted. Krstic said OLPC was undergoing a "drastic internal restructuring" and "a radical change in its goals and vision."

Then last week, Bender left the group entirely. That marked a third high-profile departure from OLPC. In addition to Krstic, Mary Lou Jepsen, who had been chief technology officer, left in December.

Negroponte said Bender was burned out after helping to shape OLPC for two years, during which time it has sold more than 500,000 laptops for children in such countries as Haiti, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Peru, Uruguay and Mongolia.

But Bender already has new plans: to launch an independent effort to further the development of the XOs' homegrown software, known as Sugar, and get it to run on Linux computers other than XOs. "Sugar is in a narrow place and it is ripe to be unleashed," he wrote in an e-mail exchange.

Nicholas Negroponte, the founder and driving force of the OLPC said the insistence of developers on relying on open-source software was hampering the development of the unit, and described the Sugar proponents as "open-source fundamentalists." Unlike Sugar, at least the Windows version can run a Flash animation. Remember the kids you were supposed to be making the laptops for? They don't care if you don't like Bill Gates. But there's no hate like Microsoft hate, I guess.

Tags:  PC, OLPC, OS, ui, quit, K