Microsoft signs up with One Laptop Per Child

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olpc_laptop.jpgMicrosoft has announced an agreement with the One Laptop Per Child (OLCP) organisation to bring Windows XP to the company’s XO machines, often referred to as the ‘$100 laptop’.

It has taken Microsoft a year to customise its XP package to be compatible with XO devices, which sport custom keys, a writing pad and power-saving mode, and it will charge a mere $3 for the software. However, there’s an additional $7 for the ‘hardware’ although I can’t clarify exactly what that is. It could be the 2GB memory card that the OS comes on.

This can be seen as a big win for OLPC, which has shaky ground following a few high profile departures from the initiative, and because its reliance on open source software, including a version of Linux, has turned some countries off the idea. OLPC founder, Nicholas Negroponte, confirmed that “certain countries around the world […] have always been very, very insistent that they want Windows as an option.”

As we learned earlier in the week, Microsoft is pretty keen to stem the tide of Linux operating systems sneaking in on low cost devices and is strategically cutting the price of certain versions of XP to counter it. It would hardly do to have a generation of children from developing nations growing up without using Windows now would it?

The ones who stand to lose as a result of this are OLPC’s open source software supporters who will now have their products limited by the fact Windows is coming in to steal the show. However, the machines will still be offered with the choice of Windows or Linux operating systems and in the end the founder will no doubt be keen to point out that this is a question of education, not balancing out the software industry.

Professor Negroponte believes the dual boot option will add to demand, and as the BBC’s dot.life tech blogger Rory Cellan-Jones points out, it’ll be interesting to see how many of those education departments in the target countries now decide to opt for the open source Linux models anyway.

Trial begin in five countries later in the year with XO laptops featuring XP, and next week a new version of the device is going to be unveiled. Let’s hope they rethink that colour scheme.

OLPC (via The Guardian)

Related posts: Rwandan children already hooked on Google | OLPC isn’t the only option

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