New Powers on the Throne – or Heads on the Block – at OLPC

The One Laptop Per Child program announced last week that they have named a new President and Chief Operating Officer for the non-profit, ostensibly in a desperate play to stem the hemorrhaging of talent and controversy the project has seen over the past few months.

Charles Kane, currently the project's part-time CFO, will take over from founder and chairman Nicholas Negroponte, who has come under fire in recent months for public relations gaffes, management misfires, OLPC's support for Windows on the XO, and the recent suggestion of abandoning Linux outright. The project has also experienced an exodus of key employees, including technology chief Mary Lou Jepsen, Ivan Krstic, who had a hand in nearly every aspect of XO development, kernel engineer Andres Salomon, and Walter Bender, President of OLPC Software and Content.

The loss of so many high-level staffers, combined with the project's apparent turn away from Open Source software, have lead many to question the future and direction of the project as an educational tool. Kane's appointment is unlikely to assuage those fears, as he was recently quoted in an interview saying that it is the laptops, not software, that is important, and that "anything that is contrary to that objective, and limits that objective" — like a commitment to Open Source software — "is against what the program stands for."

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