Does ARM Chip for OLPC 3.0 mean no Windows?

Does ARM Chip for OLPC 3.0 mean no Windows?

Summary: 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?

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Processors

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • That may be the only way ...

    ... to thwart Microsoft and Intel's <a href="" target="_blank">mercenaries</a>.

    But then again, maybe not. :(

    Nicholas Negroponte can't recognize a snake oil salesman even if the snake bit him.

  • RE: Does ARM Chip for OLPC 3.0 mean no Windows?

    If there is no Microsoft Windows on OLPC 3.0 then you may as well call the project dead right now. People tried to go for linux and it has failed them. People have said they do not want linux, and with it being abandoned by some of the bigger names like Linus Torvalds and Mark Shuttleworth, it would be crazy to invest any time or money into it. Let us not forget linux also has a return rate that is three times higher than that of Microsoft Windows.

    Lets face the facts, any hardware manufacturer will look to Microsoft as the savior of their design. Using ARM means no Microsoft. Soon as the OLPC realizes this they will change chips from ARM to something x86 based.
    Loverock Davidson
    • And may Santa ...

      Bring you some common sense. Mike Cox u ain't !
    • Time to take out the garbage Donovan Colbert? Yes?

      Because it is overflowing here.
      D T Schmitz
      • One month down

        2 more months to go until you start calling me a new name.

        1. Ken the gamer on channel B.
        2. Donovan Colbert
        3. ??
        Loverock Davidson
        • Just insert a "c" in there somewhere for #3... nt

        • You go by many names, remember?

          At least that's what you said while posting on techrepublic under your dcolbert alias.
          The Mentalist
    • Bore, Waffle, bore

      Alan Smithie
  • Hey Donovan. Why do you post with the alias Loverock Davidson?

    You've devloped this <blink><a href=";post-358" target="_blank">Donovan Colbert</a></blink> real '<a href="" target="_blank">persona</a>' over at Tech Republic.

    Which is fine. I wish you all the best there.

    But, why do you post with the alias of Loverock Davidson?

    <a href=";col1" target="_self">Waiting your reply</a>

    PS. Please feel free to contact me. I am all over the Internet and you can find me there.

  • Excelent choice

    Giving the $haft to M$ and Inhell is the way to go!
    People are finally seeing the light: no more windoze or monopolistic chips.
    Linux Geek
    • yep!

      and thus, no more performance. Oh well, good enough is good enough for some, and then there's the rest of us. Cheers for market segmentation!

      The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."
    • Linux Fanboy Cliches

      "M$" "windoze", etc.

      Gawd, Linux Fanboys are a constant stream of tired, old, cliches.
    • m$, windoze and inhell?

      It's not hard to see why so many people think Linux is for snob-nosed douchy tech-types.

      Thanks for bad-mouthing the non-Windows (not anti-windows) community!

      and "giving the shaft"? Damn, I'm booting into 7 right now; I'm so disgusted that I might actually be using the same software as you! lol.
  • Why does it matter to not have Windows?

    If you recall the focus on the OLPC project, you'll understand the problems with aligning with closed software.

    It directly and negatively impacts the education experience. The point of the OLPC isn't to give people a 20th century cubicle office worker experience.

    With an XO running Linux (Fedora is what it ships) and the Sugar desktop, you have an environment that encourages taking everything apart and learning about it. It is extremely hands on. Take it apart, swap things around. Share software between XOs without being pirates. View source, just like a webpage, and understand what makes things work.

    An XO running Windows is more than hobbled, it's broken.

    A better question for you is, does it matter if the next gen OLPC doesn't support Windows?

    Why would it matter?
    • So Rather than helping poor school children

      This is more of a social engineering experiment to get third world children to use linux?

      Call me paranoid but thats what it seems like.
      • So Rather than helping poor school children

        You'd rather have third world schools give their available funds to a Gluttonous avaricious greedy goblin Corporation?

        So you're paranoid that poor little Microsoft might be harmed by these previously submissive folk? What goes around comes around. ?VENGEANCE IS MINE?, sayeth the Lord
        Ole Man
  • OLPC a functional, or needed, organization?

    I'm surprised that the OLPC organization still exists. I thought they collapsed a long time ago.

    Anyway, with many low-cost PCs already on the market, is there any need for OLPC?
  • So far it means nothing, unless MS has an undisclosed ARM Project


    At least for the immediate future, there will be no ARM-based Windows netbooks (excluding Windows Mobile 5 on snapdragon).

    For all I know, MS may be working on a 'MinWin' kernel to accommodate such devices.
    D T Schmitz
    • re:So far it means nothing, unless MS has an undisclosed ARM Project

      <font color=#808080><em>"...there will be no ARM-based Windows netbooks..."</em></font>

      But there will be an <em>ARM</em> to twist. <a href=";col1" target="_self">see above</a>

    • Windows is on ARM

      Windows CE has run on ARM for years, and i believe a company just released a netbook with an ARM processor running WinCE 6.0