Meta Design Links: 29 Sept 2007

1) It’s Time To Call One Laptop Per Child A Failure

It breaks my heart to see such wonderful design work from so many talented designers go to waste but the announcement that the One Laptop Per Child Foundation is offering a 2-for-1 sale in the U.S. of the beautiful little machine should mark the end of this grand–and deeply flawed–effort. ~ Bruce Nussbaum

I have to tip my hat and acknowledge that this was a super human effort, but I have to agree with Bruce to a certain extent.
In my mind, I find this project was a grand scheme thought out by people who felt their better way of life can transcend across cultures and be equally relevant. It’s pretty much a big brother; I know what’s best for you approach.
The question was should be, is a Laptop the right product for this problem in the first place? Why not one computer, but add more teachers and build more schools? Also there are some discussions that the mobile phone might be a better replacement but it is not an apple (communication) to orange (learning) comparison.
I do understand much research was done, but were there conversations with people it was meant to target? What about the environment the OLPC needs to live in? Electricity something we take for granted is not always available in 3rd world countries, so will it sit in the corner discharged?
At the end of the day, I’m sure there were both top and bottom end considerations in the design process, but this to me is more of a problem of Design by Committee. To many cooks spoil the broth, doing to many things and satisfying too many partner’s needs.
I’m glad they have finally saw the light and gone for the 1 for 1 deal, as this is something that I have long felt as the right way to proceed.
2) Jonathan Ive for CEO!
I for one believe that the multi-disciplinary designer mindset makes a good path to the CEO chair, but the question comes down to the individual that is Jonathan Ive.
Currently this post does take a leap of faith on some assumptions on the relationship between Ive and Jobs as well as the Apple design process. A process that we actually know very little about as Mr Ive is very PR shy. Fortunately we do know that Jobs talks to Ive a lot.
But ultimately this discussion comes down to the characteristics of great CEOs of which one is Vision. For sure Ive does what more designers should do and that is “Strategy Visualization”, but the question is that does he have the vision and strategic thinking skills that Steve Jobs has? If he does then he will make a great Apple CEO, but from the rumors of the “Iron Fist” management style (not necessary bad) that Steve Jobs runs Apple, I’m not so sure.
What we see today in Apple’s product repertoire could be a result of a very tight brief originating from Steve’s fertile mind.
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Links via: reBang
Check out more links at: Design Sojourn . Net

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6 Comments
  • Eduardo Silva

    September 29, 2007 at 7:46 pm Reply

    The XO currently lasts from 3 to 4 hours of battery time, and the near-term goal is to get to 8 hours. The long term goal is to get to 14 hours (still with 1st generation hardware). The techniques to reach these goals have todo with very clever hardware: Most of the laptop, including the CPU, can be powered off, and an image still appear on the screen: This is usefull if the kid is reading a book, the laptop suspends, freezes the current image on screen, and wakes up in less then a second once an action is done, like changing a page. On the long-run, it is intended that the laptop heavily suspends when there is no activity going on, including between the slightly bigger pauses of keyboard typing.
    Currently it is the lowest Watt consuming laptop in the world, low enought that you can run and charge it with human power, using a pull-chord. It is somewhat voltage tolerant, being able to get power from instable sources, like car batteries, etc.
    It has unique antenas to support a new standard of mesh wireless networking, which, in close range, eschews the need for extra infrastructure to establish a wireless network. If one or more of the XOs have internet access, they provide internet to those who don’t have it (for example, if they are out of school, and a kid with home internet is neighbouring a kid who hasn’t got home internet).

  • csven

    September 29, 2007 at 8:58 pm Reply

    I’ve been skeptical of the OLPC since it’s announcement, but I’ve also been holding out hope that my concerns would prove unfounded. Unfortunately, much of the criticism I’ve read has raised issues that don’t seem to go away. And sometimes the information coming out of involved parties seems more wishful than accurate.
    I still hope they succeed, but if they don’t then perhaps something will be learned for the next effort.

    Jobs reputation as a taskmaster perfectionist is pretty well documented. Yet it seems to be a necessary element in the equation.
    Apple simply may not survive Jobs’ departure.

  • DT

    September 29, 2007 at 10:56 pm Reply

    Eduardo,
    Thanks for your comments and taking time to write it. The XO OS seems to be a fantastic piece of well written software. However lets take a step back here as your description of the fantastic XO OS sounds to me that its about doing things right instead of doing the right thing in the first place.
    While I recognize the amazing capabilities of such a device, we need to ask ourselves why? This product is targeted to people who are simply at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Do you think they have the time for idle chat or surfing the net if you worry every minute about a roof overhead and food in your stomach?
    In such 3rd worlds countries life operates at a subsistence level and their needs are far different than ours. Another great example along the same humanitarian slant are disaster relief kits by the UN designed and donated from the west. At the end of the day the boxes the kits come in make great seats or just lie cluttered in the environment unused.
    Logically would such 3rd world countries even have batteries, or cars in the first place? You will still need a wireless base station or a satellite transmitter. While perhaps the OLPC can be great on its own, as part of a large country lacking in infrastructure I find its intended impact will be dumbed down. What about the range of wireless chat? This is almost as absurd as to MSN a colleague in the next department or cubical. Strangely though people still do it, but what about people that cannot read or write/type?
    Again really its about what we think is great for us and hoping it will be relevant for others.
    However I think the OLPC is not a lost cause. There is one great market this product can find a place, poor inner city children in develop or developing nations. With the infrastructure already setup, I see the OLPC becoming more of a equalizer product for the haves and have not. It will giving inner city kids an equal exposure as the rich kids have up town. This gives them a fighting chance as these kids compete on the same playing field. If you think about it this is a more logical positioning and perhaps what might have been the target market in the first place.
    But as a product for 3rd world countries like Africa, Inner China, some parts of India, and IndoChina? Sorry, I really doubt it.

  • DT

    September 29, 2007 at 10:59 pm Reply

    csven,
    I agree with you, for Apply to continue to innovate requires a lot of people constantly shifting and moving out of their comfort zone. It is interesting that innovation can happen from the top within a very tightly controlled environment.
    Strange animal this innovation. Really this quote nails successful innovation in a company: “Work like a Slave, Command like Kings, and Create like God”.

  • LY

    October 3, 2007 at 5:20 pm Reply

    hey DT i totally agree with u on ur reply towards Eduardo. Personally i was involved in a project by Youth Expedition Programme, whereby my leader proposed turning a vacant building into a community center sort of place for the locals. We spent all our time there furnishing and decorating that building. And i was joking with my friends that i bet all this will be gone by the next time we visit. Guess what. They held a party for us on the last day. In that building that we furnished. They actually cleared up the whole place so that we have enough place to have our “party”. Talk about wasting time and money.
    what i feel all along was that the CC wasn’t what they need at all, it’s what we think they need! Unfortunately i was proven correct sooner than i thought.

  • DT

    October 4, 2007 at 9:45 pm Reply

    Hi LY,
    Thats a great story and great example. Thanks for visiting and sharing.

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