Friday, November 16, 2007

OLPC Warning Signs and Suggestions

Yesterday, I checked OLPC News and realized a bit too late there was a local meetup in Washington, DC. D'oh, this would have been a chance to play with this remarkable laptop.

You'd think the latest news on the OLPC would be good, as you can actually buy one of them for the next 10 days. But alas, things aren't going so smoothly. As could probably be predicted, the ordering process was crushed by demand, the customer service is lacking and pretty much everyone but the OLPC has a better idea for distributing the laptops. Oh, and there's a serious competitor on the scene, too.

The last thing the OLPC group needs is yet another person chiming with his opinion, but well, whatever. Here's what I would do if I were in their shoes:

First, way over communicate. Without information, people will fill the void with their fears and concerns. If the shipment isn't going to arrive by Christmas, tell people. If you hired the wrong people to be telesales reps, admit that to. Just keep the information flowing. Don't forget,the laptop exists, and there's evidence that it can succeed. If you're having distribution woes, let's hear about it.

Next, get as many laptops as you can in the hands of geeks. The fact is, the OLPC laptop has features that you'd find on a $1500 Panasonic Toughbook. It has features, like its dual mode screen, which you can't find on any widely available laptop. There needs to be a loud and clear message being spread: this is a unique laptop that's well worth the wait. Sure, there may look like there are competitors out there, but don't be fooled - we've played with it, we have the evidence. Geeks can and would love to spread exactly the message (providing its true, of course).

Bottom line: let's see an OLPC blog from the inside, airing all the dirty laundry, and let's see 500 laptops delivered to folks who will do their homework on the machine, and then spread the word. Oh, and for gosh, take the 10,000 laptop unit order from Vietnam.

Update: Thinking about his some more, I think I should add: when I say geeks above, I don't just me gadget geeks (though, some of them too). I'm talking about anyone who's devoted to digging deeper into their field - math teacher geeks, library geeks, home schooling geeks, mobile geeks, etc. Again, I'm suggesting you get the device into the hands of a variety of folks who can evalute and potentially sing its praises.

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