From Jo Best, ZDNet Australia comes this little ditty:
While the news that Microsoft is developing a version of Windows for the so-called "$100 laptop" has caused some consternation, One Laptop Per Child Chairman Nicholas Negroponte has said the project could not promote openness if it blocked Windows.
Considering that a year ago Dr Negroponte was damning the very thought of putting anything but open-source software on his beloved XO, the brainchild of his One Laptop per Child initiative, this is truly a remarkable statement. His moral indignation that any for-profit OS company should have a shot at competing was over the top.
He wasn't too keen on Intel introducing the Classmate as a competitor to the XO either -- but that's what he gets for trying to keep first-tier vendors out of the project early on. Now they are all interested -- and he can't keep them out. If you can beat 'em, Join 'em!
Considering that One Laptop per Child is intended to help educate children in places where access to information is severely limited, you would think that his cause would be more important to him than his ego.
This is not to confuse my opinion of the XO with Negroponte's choice of OS. I don't care what OS he prefers people to buy -- people (or in this case governments) will buy what they want. My colleague, Chris Dawson, has been telling us about the Intel Classmate and, though a Linux aficionado, Chris admits that the Linux version of the Classmate still needs tuning when compared to the Windows version. The point is that the Classmate offers its customers (ostensibly, third-world governments) choice. It is no accident that Dr. Negroponte has come around to considering a Windows option for the XO. If he doesn't, the Intel Classmate will continue to outshine (and out-sell) the XO.
From Intel's promotional materials, it does not appear that the Intel Classmate needs a "special version" of Windows XP Pro. Just another point for the Classmate in the eyes of many.
Why? Because, rightly or wrongly, most users still want Windows -- to the point that in the developing parts of the world, people would rather steal Windows (or pay some pirate pennies on the dollar) than take Linux for free. (There is a lesson in Human psychology here somewhere.)
The bottom line is that while the XO is a marvel of R&D, turning to unique ways of solving the special problems found in remote areas of the world which lack the most basic infrastructure, for a few dollars more, and some limited infrastructure (a convenient power outlet for recharging batteries being one), the Intel Classmate appears to offer a great deal more (Windows or not) than the XO, and according to what I have read, performance is considerably better -- regardless of the OS of choice.
Do I think it belongs in the US market anymore than the XO? No. In the US, access to the Internet is available to anyone with a telephone. Need a faster connection? Most any library or school in America has high-speed access to the Internet (along with many other public places) -- and American households can buy more robust computers off of eBay for less money!
I don't believe that American taxpayers, the great bulk of whom can afford to buy a computer for their kids should pay out their tax dollars so that their school can give their kid a computer that is more lame than the one at home. Introducing the Classmate or the XO, or any other similar device into the classroom will not increase access to information -- instead, it will give politicians an excuse to cut Education IT budgets even further.
If we want to provide personal computers (as opposed to unfettered access to a shared computer) to our school children, it needs to be done on a grant basis using well-established guidelines used by other needs-based charities.