While the news Microsoft is developing a version of Windows for the so-called $100 laptop has caused some consternation, the head of the One Laptop Per Child Foundation said the project could not promote openness if it blocked Windows.
Microsoft corporate VP Will Poole told Reuters last week that the software giant is working on a stripped down version of Windows XP to run on the ruggedised laptops, destined for schoolchildren in developing countries. According to the exec, the OS could be ready in a "few months".
The educational laptop (video demo available here), known as the XO, has been built using free and open source software -- part of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation's drive to allow XO's young users to modify the laptop's software as they see fit.
The OLPC Foundation's philosophy of openness is behind its decision to allow Microsoft software on the machines, according to its chairman Nicholas Negroponte.
"It would be hard for OLPC to say it was "open" and then be closed to Microsoft. Open means open," Negroponte told ZDNet Australia.
According to Negroponte, the XP announcement is the latest development in a long-running collaboration between the foundation and Microsoft.
"Microsoft has always been working on Windows for the XO. We put the SD slot into our laptop over one year ago, for them," he said, explaining that the SD slot allows the XO memory to be expanded, making it easier for users to run Windows.
"[Windows on XO] has not only been happening with our consent, but collaboration. Some of the first engineering models from any given build go to them," Negroponte said.
Despite Microsoft's involvement, the OLPC remains principally an open source project. The machines come with an OS which uses elements of Red Hat's Fedora Core 6 and includes a browser built on XULRunner, the run-time environment used by Firefox.
Orders for around three million of the machines are thought to have been received to date.