Ars Technica is reporting that Columbia will be distributing OLPC XO netbooks to students in the towns of Quetame and Chia. This is a pilot program and, although it is unclear how many will be distributed and how they will be used programatically, we can deduce that these were pilot units Microsoft purchased for testing with Windows XP.
As Greg DeKoenigsberg, Red Hat's community relations manager, notes,
"Microsoft committed to purchase 10,000 [XO] machines in May, customized to run Windows. They're free to do whatever they want with those machines. For instance: if Microsoft wants to run a pilot of unspecified size in two towns, and turn that pilot into a huge PR event... they are perfectly free to do that."
OLPCs core operating system, by the way, is based on Red Hat Linux. You can read the Mr. DeKoenigsberg's full blog entry here. It's worth reading. He's a bit irritated:
So we need help changing people's perceptions. Every time I go out to talk about OLPC, inevitably I hear that people aren't interested in OLPC anymore because they are "Microsoft's stooge." And why is that? Because every time Microsoft farts in the general direction of OLPC, somebody prints a headline like "Microsoft cloud hovers over the OLPC project" that gets read by, oh, a bazillion people. And then we get another rousing chorus of the "OLPC sold out to Microsoft" song.
At any rate, this is a nice gesture for the people of Quatame whose town was badly damaged by a major earthquake in May. Anyone out there care to comment on the pedagogy?