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OLPC to become 'more like Microsoft'

Struggling $100 laptop maker looks for new CEO

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project wants to be as efficient as a commercial organisation, and to that end is searching for a new CEO and reorganising departments, the non-profit organisation's chairman has announced.

The need for a CEO and improved efficiency stem from OLPC operating "almost like a terrorist group, doing almost impossible things", and the need to be managed "more like Microsoft", chairman Nicholas Negroponte said in an interview with BusinessWeek.

OLPC has reorganised into four operating units - technology, deployment, market development, and fundraising and administration - over the past month, Negroponte said. He will continue as chairman.

As part of the reorganisation, the non-profit also plans to unload more Linux OS development to Red Hat and Windows OS development to Microsoft, Negroponte said. Negroponte said in January that OLPC was working with Microsoft to develop a dual-boot system to put both Linux and Windows on the non-profit's XO laptops.

That will help OLPC focus more on "developing prototypes and other new concepts" related to learning, Negroponte told BusinessWeek.

OLPC has been plagued with problems since it launched the effort to develop a $100 XO laptop for children in developing countries three years ago. OLPC has struggled to realise the ambitious vision of developing the laptop, facing delays, rising costs and reduced orders. Critics charge that OLPC's broken distribution and support models led to reduced orders from governments, its target customers.

In January, OLPC lost chief technology officer Mary Lou Jepsen, who started an organisation to commercialise OLPC's technology, including the screen and battery. A few days later, Intel said it was quitting OLPC after the non-profit insisted that Intel abandon its effort to develop and distribute Classmate PC, a rival low-cost laptop. OLPC later said that it would welcome Intel back to the effort.

OLPC officials were not available for comment about the search for a CEO.

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