Windows coming on dual-boot OLPC

OLPC will offer a dual-boot laptop with a low-cost student version of Windows XP later this year.

The One Laptop Per Child Project and Microsoft plan to make both Windows and Linux available on a version of the project's XO laptop, the companies said Thursday.

The parties expect to deliver a dual-boot XO system in August or September that will have both the traditional Linux-based Sugar operating system of the XO and a low-cost student version of Windows XP, according to Kyle Austin, an OLPC representative.

OLPC Chairman Nicholas Negroponte has referred in the past to a dual-boot XO model, but this is the first official announcement of such a system. The XO was developed by OLPC for children in developing countries. The availability of Windows on the system will give customers more choice in operating systems and let them use Windows-based educational software and tools, the parties said. Customers and partners worldwide have asked for Windows on the XO, they said.

Austin said the dual-boot system will have Sugar and Microsoft's Student Innovation Suite, a US$3 software offering that Chairman Bill Gates announced last year. Gates said the suite would include a version of Windows XP, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, Microsoft Math 3.0, Learning Essentials 2.0 for Microsoft Office and Windows Live Mail.

A Microsoft representative confirmed the XO would have a version of Windows XP but said the specifics were yet to be determined.

Trials of Windows on the laptops will begin in June in select countries, they said. During the trial, Windows will reside on an SD (Secure Digital) card in the laptop's SD slot, according to Austin, but in the final shipping machine, both OSes will be on the hard drive.

OLPC is working with third-party developers to have the XO's distinctive Sugar user interface placed on top of Windows, but the dual-boot systems coming later this year will use the Windows interface for Student Innovation Suite, Austin said.

Microsoft and OLPC did not specify the price of the dual-boot system on Thursday.

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