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May 16, 2008

Microsoft to offer Windows for OLPC

Posted by David Hunter at 1:40 PM ET.

After a somewhat contentious history with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project that offers low cost PCs for developing nations, Microsoft has signed up to provide a variant of the Windows operating system for the gadgets:

Today, Microsoft Corp. and One Laptop per Child (OLPC) announced an agreement that will make the Microsoft Windows operating system available on OLPC’s low-cost XO laptops for the world’s poorest children. Through this agreement, trials of the XO running Windows are planned to begin as soon as June in key emerging markets. Recognizing that the challenge of providing high-quality education for children in the developing world is too large to be solved by any single organization, Microsoft and OLPC are committed to working with governments and nongovernmental organizations to ensure the success of these pilot programs.

The availability of Windows, in addition to Linux, on the XO laptop will allow customers to have an expanded choice of operating environments that best fit their requirements. The intention is to create a version of the XO laptop that provides the ability to host both Windows and Linux operating systems, giving users the ability to run either on the XO laptop.

This has caused some turmoil amongst the OLPC staff who had been fervent Linux supporters:

But the alliance with Microsoft has created some turmoil within the project. Walter Bender, the president who oversaw software development, resigned last month. His departure, Mr. Negroponte said, was “a huge loss to O.L.P.C.”

Inside the project, there have been people who, Mr. Negroponte said, came to regard the use of open-source software as one of the project’s ends instead of its means.

“I think some people, including Walter, became much too fundamental about open source,” Mr. Negroponte said.

As I have observed previously, the OLPC initiative (like most "computers in education" projects) reminds me of the old saw about "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail," but regardless of any actual utility of the project, Microsoft has bought themselves some good PR for some unspecified development expense.

Filed under General Business, Microsoft, Public Relations

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