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OLPC appoints new CEO

Hopes to reverse perceived brain drain

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Project appointed a new president and chief operating officer late last week. The two new apointment, Chris Kane, will run daily operations at the nonprofit organisation. XO laptop manufacturer OLPC hopes the move will send the signal that it is recovering from the loss of top personnel over the past few months.

Charles Kane will move from the part-time role as chief financial officer to oversee the OLPC's operational matters and distribution of the OLPC XO laptop on a day-to-day basis. Kane will provide OLPC the leadership needed to deliver on its commitments to partners and governments, said OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte in a statement.

Negroponte will "focus on fund-raising and promoting the project to governments worldwide," OLPC said.

The new appointment could curb damage caused by the loss of important personnel over the past few months. In January, OLPC lost Chief Technology Officer Mary Lou Jepsen, who started an organisation to commercialise parts of OLPC's technology, including the screen and battery. In February, Director of Security Architecture Ivan Krstić resigned to protest the organization's restructuring and "radical" change in goals.

Last month, Walter Bender, the president of software and content, quit to promote the use of open-source software in the face of OLPC's goal to load Windows XP on the laptop. Bender was said to be running the day-to-day operations of OLPC while Negroponte focused on fundraising and promotion of the project.

OLPC recently restructured into four departments - development, technology, deployment and learning - and the organisation is now focusing on making the XO laptop more appealing to customers.

The organisation is in negotiations with Microsoft to load Windows on dual-boot versions of the XO laptop, which is being marketed as a learning tool for children in developing countries. In an open letter, Negroponte criticised the development of Sugar, XO's user interface, and asked developers to stop bickering, unite and jointly develop a Windows user interface to make XO laptops more appealing to customers.

The letter drew anger from open-source developers writing applications for the Linux-based laptop, who called Negroponte's vision "vague" and "demoralising" for the future of Sugar.

Negroponte needs to clarify his vision to deliver a more sophisticated product, Krstić wrote in an April blog entry.

If Sugar is a problem, Negroponte has no one but himself to blame, Krstić said. "Nicholas' recent claim of Sugar growing amorphously because it 'didn't have a software architect who did it in a crisp way' is similarly muddy: convincing him of the need for an architect is a battle Walter and I fought for months without success," Krstić wrote.

Negroponte offered Krstić the spot of chief software architect, which was rescinded several weeks later "for reasons he refused to explain to anyone," Krstić wrote.

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