The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) computer, which uses a version of Linux, might soon be available with Windows. According to a Reuters report, a Microsoft corporate vice president has said that the
giant is working to adapt Windows XP for the low-cost XO laptop.
"We are spending a nontrivial amount of money" on the porting, Microsoft's Will Poole was quoted by Reuters as saying. He added that the company still has "significant work ahead" to finish, and that, "at the end of the day, there's no guarantee."
The OLPC project, headed by former MIT Media Lab Director Nicholas Negroponte, is expected to begin manufacturing the machines in China in November. The project originally promoted the laptops as costing $100 each, but they now will be offered for an expected $188 each in bulk quantities.
Give One Get One
News reports indicate that the cost of manufacturing is $175 each, and that as many as three million machines have been ordered already. The OLPC Foundation expects to sell millions annually to countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The possibility of running Windows on the XO is part of the project's open philosophy, according to Negroponte. He told news media that OLPC couldn't say it was open and then remain closed to Microsoft, and that it has a long-standing working relationship with the company.
In fact, he added, the XO's Secure Digital memory slot is part of the OLPC design to provide additional memory for such uses as running Windows, and said that some of the prototype models in any given build go to Microsoft.
As with the news of possible Windows availability on the XO laptops, OLPC is evolving. Originally, the laptop would be sold only in developing countries. But last month OLPC announced its Give One Get One campaign. Beginning on November 12, consumers in the U.S. can purchase two OLPC laptops for $399. One will be sent to the buyer, and one to a child in a developing nation.
Microsoft, Intel Turnabout
The advent of Windows on XO laptops would undoubtedly raise some eyebrows. The XO laptop's independence from Microsoft was one the rallying cries of the effort's supporters. In fact, at a Linux event in 2006, Negroponte was quoted by news media as saying that Intel was mad at him because AMD was its partner, and that "Bill Gates is not pleased either."
He told the audience that, "if I am annoying Microsoft and Intel then I figure I am doing something right."
Intel subsequently joined the OLPC effort following Negroponte's charges on CBS' 60 Minutes and other venues that the chipmaker was creating a cheap alternative laptop, the Classmate PC.
Samir Bhavnani, a research director with Current Analysis West, said that Windows XP for the XO makes sense and noted that Gates has been heavily involved in philanthropic ventures.
He also suggested that Microsoft has a commercial motive to keep Windows prominent in developing nations. "Windows is the de facto world standard," he noted, adding that, because of its stability and compatibility, it would be useful for children in developing countries to learn how to use it.