Microsoft has thrown its support behind the One Laptop Per Child project with an announcement that OLPC computers could soon be dual-boot with a choice between either Linux or Windows XP when running the XO machines.
According to eFlux Media both Microsoft and OLPC have promised to work with governments and nongovernmental organizations to ensure that the program will be a success.
The move comes after disappointing sales for the OLPC project. The target was for 150 million of the computers to be shipped by the end of 2008 however, to date, media reports suggest the number of machines sold to foreign governments is around the 600,000 mark.
January also saw Intel step back from its support of the campaign after just a few months with the program. Intel cited differences with OLPC Chief Nicholas Negroponte as the reason for pulling out of the organisation. It later emerged that OLPC was unhappy that the company was developing its own low cost PC for schools in poorer countries. Intel claimed OLPC accused the company of pushing its own Classmate PC to governments of developing nations in favour of the XO laptop, however none of these claims were ever proved.
Negroponte feels the adoption of Windows XP will help the outfit flog more of the laptops to foreign governments given the fact that Microsoft is such a huge name.
Unfortunately XP for the XO comes at a cost. The original plan was to develop a hundred dollar laptop, however the price as it stands is just under twice that. OLPC said it hoped to have the price down to $100 in 2008 but that, realistically; it would probably be around $140. The addition of Windows XP to the XO laptop will add an extra $3 dollars to the price. If countries are looking for a dual-boot version that can run both Linux and Windows, you’re looking at an extra $7 dollars per laptop.
While OLPC seems to think that the adoption of a well known OS will boost sales, many people aren’t happy with the fact that this could have been a huge opportunity for Linux machines to become a more widespread occurrence. Most of us start out with Microsoft and shift to alternative operating systems after a number of years. The OLPC project meant there would be millions of Linux savvy children from the word go. There’s also the issue of viruses. Traditionally there are more attempts to circumvent Windows security simply because there are more Windows computers out there. The implications of running Windows rather than Linux on machines with low levels of security could be huge.
Microsoft has said it will begin testing XP-XO laptops in June.