Friday, May 16, 2008

Bill Gates to OLPC: Meet Windows

The worst kept secret in open source laptop, One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), is finally official. It wasn't really a secret as working on getting XP to install in the XO received a lot of attention from OLPC enthusiasts. The XO laptop can now happily boot into Windows XP and happily endorsed by Nicholas Negroponte and OLPC program.

CNet (newest member of the CBS family)
NY Times (A lot more details)

While it remains to be seen just how this will impact deployment of XO laptops and what flavor most nations/organizations will go with, Microsoft's participation is an endorsement of the effort to bring affordable technology to children in third world nations.

So far, deployment of the XO laptops in its current form has fallen short of expectation given the high profile attention granted OLPC when it was initally announced in 2005. Saddled with delays and rising costs, it was finally settled at less than $200, more than twice the lofty goal of $100 laptops. Nevertheless, the XO laptop is a great engineering achievement for a nonprofit organization and its stringent guidelines.

The success of the Give One Get One (G1G1) was also a testament of the viability of this concept. In late 2007, the G1G1 gave users in North America the opportunity to purchase an XO laptop at $400, included a tax-deductible contribution of $200 as donation of another laptop to a child. (However, G1G1 was marred with numerous delays and avoidable mistakes)

Details are still not clear what the drama is that finally led to this. Negroponte is not known to be Microsoft-friendly. It is possible that Negroponte realized the state of OLPC as not as promising as he had hoped and having Windows XP could change all that. Perhaps, it also explain the exodus of OLPC executives in the last six months.

OLPC News (headline "Windows XP on the XO Laptop - Microsoft Buys Out OLPC") was blunt in its criticism of this development while others took it more in stride, perhaps waiting for more details from OLPC. Microsoft has indicated XO laptop with Windows XP will start rolling out of factories in June.

Sugar Versus XP. Sugar, the Linux OS that is being replaced with Windows XP was part of an open source project with the participation of many developers who proudly strove to make it a success. In a sign of appeasement to original adopters and developers who would certainly feel slighted by this latest development, OLPC said future XO laptops will have the ability to dual boot into Windows XP or Sugar.

If history is any indication, Sugar will receive less support over time but a core group of devotees will make a stand and continue to support it even without official acknowledgment.

In the end, the face, or rather the interface, of the XO laptop will be changed forever - only time will tell if this new alliance between OLPC and Microsoft will have the effect that Negroponte hope for. For the sake of its intended target, if this does not work, it would be a considerable blow to bring affordable technology to children in third world nations.

  • Microsoft will receive $3 for each copy of Windows XP deployed in an XO laptop.
  • Production of XO's installed with XP will begin in June.
  • There will be additional cost added to the final cost of the XO due to hardware changes to run Windows XP.
  • Some information from on working with Micrsoft. Porting was done entirely by Microsoft.
  • Original promise battery life for the XO was 24 hours.
  • Hardware specifications
  • Current news on the state of the OLPC project

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