Microsoft quashes rumours of dual-boot XO laptop

The open-source community has censured Microsoft for rejecting plans to develop a dual-boot iteration of Windows XP to run on OLPC's XO laptops

Software giant Microsoft has said it rejected plans to develop a dual-boot iteration of Windows XP to run on One Laptop per Child XO machines, and instead is developing a version of XP specifically for the XO.

Microsoft said it had considered developing a version of XP with One Laptop per Child (OLPC) that would enable the user to choose to boot up either XP or OLPC's Fedora-based Sugar operating system, but admitted on Friday it had rejected the idea in favour of developing an XP-only iteration.

The Friday announcement came after OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte said on Tuesday that Microsoft and the not-for-profit foundation were developing a dual-boot system, as reported by news-aggregation site Slashdot.

"While we have investigated the possibility in the past, Microsoft is not developing dual-boot Windows XP support for OLPC's XO laptop," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. "As we announced in December, Microsoft plans to publish formal design guidelines early this year that will assist flash-based device manufacturers in designing machines that enable a high-quality Windows experience. Our current goal remains to provide a high-quality Windows experience on the XO device."

Microsoft added that it is planning limited field trials this month of Windows XP for the XO laptop.

OLPC's director of security architecture, Ivan Krstić, said in a blog post on Thursday that the dual-boot idea never actually got very far, and that instead Microsoft was working on an install of XP for the XO that would be possible to "easily" uninstall.

"Microsoft has not been working on an actual, side-by-side, dual-boot system. We're jointly making it possible to install XP on an arbitrary XO — subject to the constraints of the Bitfrost theft-deterrence system — and then convert the machine back to Linux easily, " wrote Krstić.

News of Microsoft dropping the OLPC dual-boot idea brought disapproval from some sections of the open-source community. Open Source Initiative co-founder Bruce Perens claimed that Microsoft was seeking to undermine Linux in an emerging market.

"It's a threat Microsoft can't let stand: the entire Third World learning Linux as children, and growing up to use it," Perens wrote in a blog post. "And Microsoft is going to get its way... Microsoft's version of choice is better stated as: 'We'll give you choice and then make you choose Microsoft.' I'm sure there will be pressure on national governments to select Windows-only loads for their OLPC purchases or to specify texts protected with Windows DRM for classroom use."

However, Krstić rejected Perens' claims, saying that the Sugar operating system was robust enough to compete with XP.

"One commonly forgotten truth about OLPC is that our commitment to open-source and free software isn't religious, but pragmatic — we believe Linux and Sugar constitute a better software platform and, much more importantly, a better learning platform [than XP]," wrote Krstić in his blog post. "Our existing customers agree, and we think new ones will continue to make the right decision, while being reassured by the availability of Windows as a fall-back. To claim we should prohibit XO customers from running XP in the interest of freedom is to claim everyone should be free to make a choice — as long as it's a choice we agree with."


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