mm382: One Laptop Per Child gets Windows

MUDGE’s Musings

We return to a popular (at least to yr (justifiably) humble svt) topic here in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©. Previously:

One Laptop Per Child @ L-HC

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…
mm219: OLPC — Harvard speaks
mm232: Li’l green laptops a hit in Peru
mm247: OLPC — reviews are coming in
mm249: OLPC – News, and a review
mm267: XO – A Missionary Position

In an apparent blow to the true-believing open source community, OLPC and Microsoft have reached an agreement to make Windows available on the XO laptop.

It is only fitting that the NYTimes’ story has as its header a photograph of students in India praying before class time, since there is no doubt that in the world of personal computing technology, operating systems are a religious choice. Windows vs. Apple vs. Open Source (mainly, Linux).

nytimes

laptopsOLPC8517

Pal Pillai/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Students pray before working on their computers in Vasti Vidhalaya, India. The XO laptop comes with a video camera.

Microsoft Joins Effort for Laptops for Children

By STEVE LOHR |Published: May 16, 2008

After a years-long dispute, Microsoft and the computing and education project One Laptop Per Child said Thursday that they had reached an agreement to offer Windows on the organization’s computers.

Microsoft long resisted joining the ambitious project because its laptops used the Linux operating system, a freely distributed alternative to Windows.

The group’s small, sturdy laptops, designed for use by children in developing nations, have been hailed for their innovative design. But they are sold mainly to governments and education ministries, and initial sales were slow, partly because countries were reluctant to buy machines that did not run Windows, the dominant operating system.

Education ministries want low-cost computers to help further education, but many see familiarity with Windows-based computing as a marketable skill that can improve job prospects.

Nicholas Negroponte, the visionary who has championed One Laptop Per Child from an outrageously impractical idea (a $100 computer suitable in every way to provide educational computing to the most remote of the developing world’s children) to spectacular realization, is, unlike many idealists, a practical business operative. 600,000 of the machines have been sold to governments so far, a most impressive number.

The kids don’t care about what operating system runs their shiny green boosters to the endless world of knowledge, but then they don’t buy the XOs either.

olpc7926

Governments do (paying about $200 each thus far, although Negroponte’s goal is for economies of scale to get the eventual price down to that [ever more elusive, in these inflationary times] $100), and government education ministry bureaucrats understand Windows but they do not want to understand open source. For many governments, providing computers to young school children is less about opening up access to the gigantic world beyond their villages, and more about teaching marketable computer skills.

And, if adding Windows to the XO makes the program more palatable to the guys holding the purse strings, and Microsoft can be persuaded to price Windows appropriately, then OLPC can deliver both world wonder and practical PC skills.

Sounds like win-win to me.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Microsoft Joins Effort for Laptops for Children – New York Times

Of course, Mr. Negroponte’s pragmatism has offended open source zealots, but I believe that this is not a zero-sum issue. The kids whose governments opt for the Windows version will very probably eventually get machines that include a ported version of the simplified Sugar software, certainly appropriate for exploratory self-managed inquiring education.

And, learning their way around Windows will certainly speed their integration into the global network of business.

So, my congratulations to One Laptop Per Child, Nicholas Negroponte and to Microsoft and Bill Gates, for finally reaching common ground. After all, it’s about educating the world’s most deprived children.

Regardless of the the children’s religion, or the computers’.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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