Report: OLPC may eventually switch from Linux to Windows XP

Insistence on open source scares people away, Negroponte says

One day after the resignation of the One Laptop Per Child's president was publicly revealed, the educational project's founder and chairman says the group's XO laptop may evolve to use only Windows XP as the operating system, with open-source educational apps such as its home-built Sugar running on top.

OLPC's founder Nicholas Negroponte also told the Associated Press on Tuesday that an insistence upon using only free, open-source software had hampered the XO's usability and scared away potential adopters.

For instance, the Sugar graphical user interface aimed at children "grew amorphously" and "didn't have a software architect who did it in a crisp way," he said. Also, the laptops do not support the latest versions of Flash animation, which is widely used on children's and educational Web sites.

"There are several examples like that, that we have to address without worrying about the fundamentalism in some of the open-source community," he said. "One can be an open-source advocate without being an open-source fundamentalist."

Negroponte also said that the dual-boot version of the XO that can run Windows or Linux will soon be ready. He had already revealed in January that the group was working with Microsoft on a dual-boot version of the XO.

The admission that the XO laptop might eventually run completely on Windows, however, will further dishearten many of the non-profit's strongest supporters. They viewed the OLPC and its championing of free, open-source software for ideological and cost reasons as way to challenge Microsoft's dominance.

But the OLPC's moves could also make the XO more attractive to adopters, both educators as well as affluent Western consumers buying XOs for themselves or their children.

About 500,000 of the XO laptops have been sold, below previous targets of millions by the end of last year. Due to the lower-than-anticipated volume, the XOs have been sold for about US$200 each, or double its ambitious initial price target of US$100 each.

Moving to Windows could also remove the barriers put up by both Microsoft and Intel, which offers the competing Windows-based Classmate PC.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld
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