The fact that Microsoft has been working with the One Laptop Per Child program from the beginning may come as news to many, but OLPC's founder, Nicholas Negroponte, is now speaking more openly about it. Microsoft said last week that it was getting closer to having a stripped-down version of Windows XP ready for the OLPC machines, but is still "at least a few months away."
Negroponte seems to have plenty of patience for the new version of Microsoft's latest cast-off OS, saying in this ZDNet UK piece that "it would be hard for OLPC to say it was 'open' and then be closed to Microsoft. Open means open."
Indeed, all those new Microsoft users, when they receive their computers, can make a choice, since, as this Techtree article explains:
Upon being powered by Windows OS, the laptops would allow their child owners to modify the source code, making them compatible with both Linux and Windows XP.
See? It's open and easy!
Now that all the bad blood between the OLPC project and its open source partners and Microsoft seems to have dissipated, we must ask why.
Perhaps it is because OLPC just is not going to be the only cheapest-of-the-cheap laptop game in town, as much as Negroponte may wish for that to be so and try to make similar projects, such as one led by Intel, look bad.
And that's not all. Asustek's Eee machine, currently loaded with Xandros' Linux OS, will sport Windows XP by the end of this year in Taiwan and worldwide in early 2008, according to this vnunet.com piece. Asustek claims 1 million orders and plans to sell 3 million Eees in 2008, supplying "housewives, the elderly and children," according to CEO Jonney Shih. It is not clear whether the version of XP to be run on these machines is the same stripped-down version planned for the OLPC laptops.
It's not so much of a suprise that Microsoft will play a large part in the movement to get low-cost hardware into emerging markets. What may be interesting is whether it'll extend its sales and support for XP, as a result of its inclusion on these machines and widespread user interest in holding onto XP, rather than upgrading to Windows Vista.