Microsoft moves a step closer toward getting Windows on OLPCs

Microsoft moves a step closer toward getting Windows on OLPCs

Summary: You're not alone if you've been confused as to whether the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) low-cost XO PCs will be able to run Windows or not. On December 5, Microsoft finally issued an official statement acknowledging that it is working with OEMs to get Windows XP on OLPC systems by late next year.


You're not alone if you've been confused as to whether the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) low-cost XO PCs will be able to run Windows or not.

Microsoft moves a step closer toward getting Windows on OLPCsThere have been ongoing, conflicting reports as to whether

1. Windows could run -- theoretically and/or practically -- on OLPC systems

2. Anyone (inside or outside Microsoft) had actually tried running any version of Windows on them

3. Microsoft was interested in licensing Windows to PC/device makers to run on OLPC systems

4. The OLPC contingent was willing to allow anything other than Linux power OLPC systems.

A month or so ago, when I asked Microsoft about this, it sounded as if the company was well on its way to doing tests of Windows XP on XO machines with OLPC Director Nicholas Negroponte's blessing.

But it wasn't until December 5 that Microsoft finally issued an official statement acknowledging its OLPC plans. From the statement:

"Microsoft plans to publish formal design guidelines early next year that will assist flash-based device manufacturers in designing machines that enable a high-quality Windows experience. In addition, there will be limited field trials in January 2008 of Windows XP for One Laptop per Child’s XO laptop. Microsoft’s goal is to provide a high-quality Windows experience on the XO device; if this is achieved, then Windows XP for the XO could be available as early as the second half of 2008."

Microsoft's work on OLPCs is coming out of the Unlimited Potential team -- the folks working on Windows Starter Edition, the FlexGo pay-as-you-go Windows trials and other projects/products.

What do you think the prospects are for Windows XP-based OLPC systems? Will Microsoft be able -- and willing -- to undercut Linux OLPCs on price (and will that be a bad thing, if poorer nations end up with more, less-expensive computer choices?

Update:'s Ina Fried has more info, with Microsoft claming that it issued its public statement to provide a reality check to an overzealous Negroponte, who is allegedly telling folks it's a done deal that XP will be on OLPCs. Microsoft isn't yet sure whether it will be able to get Windows and Office to run on the stripped-down machines at a quality level with which it feels comfortable, according to Fried's blog post.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • On a level playing field...........

    Having a choice of using Microsoft software
    would be a good thing, but...... Microsoft
    will not permit a level playing field.

    They will use the very freedom which permits
    themselves to be a choice to either buy out
    and merge any other choice or crush any
    opposition by hook or by crook, freedom be

    There is no such thing as a level playing
    field where Microsoft is concerned.
    Ole Man
  • I run windows myself

    but if I had to start again today, I wish I got used to Linux first.

    At the same time, I wish that the Linux community would get off their high horse and not shun companies like Adobe and Autodesk from making their products Linux compatible, yet closed source.

    • What high horses?

      Both Adobe and AUtodesk is allowed to get their products on to Linux, as any one else. There is nothing that say they can't. But if they feel that it isn't a way for them, noone can make them deliver their products to Linux. Same goes for a large part (not all) of game industry.
  • Can't imagine it'll be difficult

    "Microsoft isn?t yet sure whether it will be able to get Windows and Office to run on
    the stripped-down machines at a quality level with which it feels comfortable"

    Given the past history of the company and it's products I can't see the quality level
    being difficult to overcome;-)

    Isn't this simply another example of competitors pushing MS, even if it is just talk.
    Will they ever come up with something original for the USD7+ billion in R&D spent

    Congratulations for OLPCs latest orders. Open source delivers whilst MS talks.
    Richard Flude
    • You missed a point, though

      It is easy to order and deliver anything. The hard part is having the product do what it is intended to do.
      • Yes, Microsoft does have a problem with making things work, and do not

        forget all of the security problems either.

        The OLPC is an engineering marvel, I can see why MS wants to try to run their software on it, to keep Linux from getting all the glory. It is a free world.
      • Yeah, they "overlooked" that.

        Are you seriously suggesting that Peru ordered 260,000 OLPC laptops without a HUGE evaluation and examination of the hardware, software, support line, infrastructure support, etc? Maybe, just maybe, some of the countries/entities placing these orders actually THINK or already KNOW what the product does do?

  • RE: Microsoft moves a step closer toward getting Windows on OLPCs

    Microsoft's entry can only benefit Microsoft and its agents (including corrupt government officials).
  • Nigeria, OLPC and windows

    Nigeria had a deal with ubuntu for their 17.000 OLPC, but microsoft stepped in and signed a deal of its own to replace the ubuntu OS by a WIndows OS. So there is already contractual obligation on Microsoft to have windows running on the platform. I do not imagine microsoft signing such a deal if they are not 100% sure that the OS will run, or more certainly already has.
    • Oops I made a mistake

      It was not OLPC, it was intel classmate. Sorry I said that in a rush
      • Also was Mandriva, but, the last I heard, the government was still planning

        on Mandriva. It was just a supplier that MS bribed trying to switch for Windows. We will see if MS can still figure out how to get money to the right people and keep Mandriva out.
        • I read that it was Mandriva

          that did the bribing.
          • And, you would be wrong. Mandriva has to make money here, MS does not.

            Microsoft paid some huge "marketing" incentives to get a distributor to switch them to Windows, but the government said no so far.
    • Wrong...

      Nigeria didn't buy any OLPC's, those were the Intel machines designed for schools.

  • -1

    I dislike Microsoft trying to undercut linux any way it finds possible, finally Linux is getting a chance to get mass exposure and of course Microsoft has to come and try to fixate itself in Linux's spot. Where is the fair competition?

    - John Musbach
    John Musbach
    • Hmm

      The fair competition is that MS will try to do that. And they will fail, on technical merits. There you have the fair competition.
      They can't win, as they has not been optimizing there software for running on computers with small resources.
  • Why replace free with proprietary?

    That's a valid question. The advantage of using Linux for OLPC isn't just that it brings down the total cost of the package. The advantage is that it introduces the poor to a free alternative. Putting Windows on the XO wil only help capture a new market segment for Micro$oft -- a segment that could spend the little money it has on better things!

    XP on XO is a marketing ploy. It will further impoverish the poor. Negroponte should tell Micro$oft: "thanks, but no thanks."
    • Ultimately, it shouldn't be Negroponte's decision

      It should be the market's decision. Restricted trade doesn't help anybody, even if good intentions are there. Let the people who are buying and using the product decide whether it's worth the extra money to use a proprietary product.
      Michael Kelly
      • Still, OLPC does not have to offer Windows as it would cost way too much to

        support two OSe. MS would have to sell and support it if they wanted to. So, the laptops should come off of the assembly line with Linux installed, then if MS wants to go in and try to switch the countries to Windows, so be it.

        Also, it is a free and open design. MS could theoretically make their own model, maybe even the same manufacturer, and lock them so they only work with Windows.
        • I agree with that

          up until "and lock them so they only work with Windows". Even Apple doesn't do that with their hardware.
          Michael Kelly