Amazon to Manage XO Laptop Giveaway Program

The “Give One, Get One” program introduced last holiday season by the Cambridge, MA-based One Laptop Per Child Foundation—which gave consumers in the United States and Canada the opportunity to buy two of the foundation’s XO laptops for $400, and have one sent to a child in a developing nation—was a success in several respects. It generated public excitement about the XO by giving the general public its first chance to buy the machine; it created more orders for the laptop, improving the economies of scale involved in its manufacture; and, of course, it meant that more children received laptops (100,000 more, according to the foundation).

But judged by the standards of most commercial consumer-electronics rollouts, the “G1G1” program was a fiasco. The foundation didn’t have enough staff to respond the tens of thousands of orders that started rolling in as soon as the program launched. The company it hired to manage fulfillment, Miami-based Brightstar, lost thousands of customer addresses through computer glitches. Many customers—some of whom had planned to give the XO to their own children, grandchildren, neices, or nephews as holiday presents—didn’t receive their laptops until March.

Now OLPC says it plans to repeat the offer for the 2008 holidays—but this time, Amazon will be in charge.

IDG News Service broke the news on Wednesday, after speaking with an OLPC regional director who said the XO will be available from the Seattle-based e-retail giant starting around Thanksgiving. The director, Matt Keller, who runs the foundation’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, said the foundation is still too small (with only 25 core staff) to handle such a large program on its own.

Boston Globe reporter Hiawatha Bray spoke with OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte for a story published today that says the switch to Amazon should eliminate last year’s delivery problems. “Many things in the last G1G1 did not run as smoothly as we would have hoped,” Negroponte told the Globe. “Those things, mostly related to fulfillment, by their nature, are what Amazon can fix.” But Negroponte didn’t share additional information, saying Amazon would announce the details of the program when it’s ready.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

Trending on Xconomy