Will Windows 'XO' bear fruit for OLPC?

Summary:Just this morning, I read MSFT working on XP for XO and I wondered: Why?If the OLPC project has accomplished nothing else, it has made Microsoft (and Intel) stand up and take notice that third-world schoolchildren represent a huge potential market.

Marc Wagner
Just this morning, I read MSFT working on XP for XO and I wondered: Why?

If the OLPC project has accomplished nothing else, it has made Microsoft (and Intel) stand up and take notice that third-world schoolchildren represent a huge potential market. But still ...

To date, OLPC has had only marginal success convincing third-world governments to buy the XO. (Even hundreds of thousands of units won't meet OLPC goals, or make a dent in improving conditions in the under-developed world -- it will take millions of units.) Meanwhile, Intel has introduced the Classmate -- arguably, a much more flexible solution -- and has had as much success.

The main difference between the XO and the Intel offering is that the Classmate runs standard distros of Linux as well as Windows XP out-of-the-box and the XO requires a hacked (some might say proprietary) version of Linux. The Intel Classmate also offers a level of hardware flexibility which the XO cannot match. Oh, and Intel offers training for educators and full hardware support for the Classmate.

At a similar price-point, there is also the ASUS Eee PC -- another Linux box offering Windows XP compatibility. From what I'm reading, OLPC is offering no training and no support for the XO. Would you buy a product without technical support? Well, why would a third-world government?

Considering the relative success of the Intel Classmate and the XO so far, I see no compelling reason for Microsoft to care about porting a crippled version of Windows XP to the XO. Apparently, Microsoft is betting that I am wrong (probably a good move) and hoping that by having an XO port of Windows available that potential OLPC customers might demand that OLPC sell them Windows-equipped XO laptops.

There's no doubt that Microsoft is in it for the money. So is Intel and ASUS. So? Even Nicholas Negroponte cares about the money (because he has to sell enough of them to get the cost down to $188, let alone his ultimate goal of $100 per XO) -- though he would claim that schoolchildren in the developing world are his primary concern -- and who am I to question his motives? Frankly, it's not his motives that concern me -- it's his naivety, but that's another story.

If having Windows XP on the XO, makes it more marketable, then that's great. Frankly, I'd rather the XO be capable of running a standard Linux distro out-of-the-box than to have it run an incompatible hack of Windows XP -- 0r Linux for that matter.

In the end though, it's customers (those footing the bill, not end-users) who will dictate whether the XO succeeds or flops -- regardless of the OS on board.

Topics: Software, Intel, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Windows

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