Does ARM Chip for OLPC 3.0 mean no Windows?

Does the new OLPC roadmap preclude the use of Windows? It sure looks that way, but I'm inclined to think that some big compromises will be necessary to get any new OLPC hardware out of the gates (no pun intended).

A few days ago, I called the original OLPC XO both the best and worst Ed Tech of the decade. Now, OLPC has announced it's roadmap through 2012 culminating in what CNET calls a $75 fantasy tablet. While I'm not exactly holding my breath for the device that ZDNet Editor, Larry Dignan, featured this morning (the pretty pictures are certainly worth a look), one thing about the road map stuck out: the ARM chip from Marvell precludes the use of Windows in the device.

The OLPC organization experienced huge rifts over the use of Windows in its devices and Nicholas Negroponte caused Microsoft a fair amount of grief over premature announcements of Windows ports for its Sugar OS and the OLPC XO 1.0. Microsoft, however, has been fairly clear (with a little bit of waffle-room) that they won't be porting Windows to ARM processors, meaning that XO 3.0, if it ever materializes, will need to be exclusively Linux-based.

In typical Negroponte style, CNET points out that

"We don't necessarily need to build it," Negroponte told Forbes on Tuesday. "We just need to threaten to build it."

Now ideally, instead of threatening to build something unrealistic, Negroponte and OLPC would be working with OEMs and ODMs to create reference designs and prototypes and build an ecosystem of open source educational software that will run on these devices. However, OLPC has never taken an ideal approach, has never met its pricing goals, and has struggled to avoid the call of Windows. 2012 is, in many ways, just around the corner. We won't have long to wait and see how this materializes.

However, I have trouble believing that a group that became so eager to hook up with Microsoft as tides turned against OLPC is willing to re-embrace the open source community. What do you think? Will the "fantasy tablet" really come to life? And will it be running Linux exclusively?

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