OLPC's dual boot Linux, Windows laptop due out soon

A version of OLPC's XO able to run Linux or Windows will be out soon, an OLPC official said.

A low-cost XO laptop from the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC) that carries both Windows and Linux will be out within the next month or so, according to an OLPC official.

The dual-boot XO laptop was expected to be available in August or September. The new device will allow users to boot-up the OS they prefer, either Microsoft Windows XP or the Linux-based Sugar OS originally found on the XO.

The new device is important to the spread of the XO around the world. OLPC started as an attempt to build a US$100 laptop and work with governments to pass them out to kids in poor nations around the world. But some governments have said they don't want the XO laptop, no matter how cheap it is, unless it has Windows.

"Some countries have been adamant about using Microsoft software," said Matt Keller, OLPC's director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, in an interview Wednesday.

A high-level government official in Egypt was among the first to tell OLPC that his country only wanted the XO if it could run Windows.

Now that OLPC has announced the dual-boot version of the laptop, Egypt plans to use them in schools, Keller said.

There has been some disagreement at OLPC about working with Microsoft and speculators have attributed some high profile departures from the non-profit to its decision to put Windows on the XO. Views differ widely between software developers who believe the source code of an application should be made freely available to users, and those makers of proprietary software who view the source code as a secret ingredient to be guarded.

In OLPC's case, the question came down to reaching out to kids, said Keller.

"We're all about educating kids," he said. "We're willing to work with anyone who shares that vision."

OLPC's goal is to make sure nobody misses out on the benefits of computing. The fear is that the price of a PC is keeping too many people in developing countries from learning how software, the Internet and communications via computing can improve their economies, job prospects and lives. To prevent poor countries from falling further behind the modern world in computing, a number of organizations are working to increase their access to computers.

Microsoft has launched a number of programs with governments in developing countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, to build computer labs in rural areas and send Microsoft employees to train people how to use software and write programs.

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Dan Nystedt

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