Thoughts on Microsoft XP for the Children's Machine XO

   
   
   
   
   

No Windows XP on the OLPC!!
When Microsoft made the interesting stipulation in their plan to sell Windows for $3 to governments of developing countries - that the computers the Windows XP Starter Edition, Office and educational apps get installed on are provided free to students, I wondered if there was something afoot.

Microsoft has been hard at work getting XP to run on the OLPC, and with the recent OLPC hardware upgrade, this got a lot easier. Among other things, the upgrade increased the hard drive space to 1G, making the problems getting XP to run (with anything other than the raw OS) much easier.

At least I hope it was more than just the OS they were having problems with getting down to 500MB - I've kept a BartPE Bootable XP-on-a-CD handy for recovery, and what you can fit on a CD can be squeezed down to 500 MB.

The Slashdot community is wondering if this hardware upgrade was to better support XP - the connection seems possible, but not definite as yet. It seems my fears weren't without good cause, with the current reports of XP now running on OLPCs. OLPC Board member as well as Negroponte have both reacted positively to the $3 MS XP package, though whether this is directly tied to XP OLPCs is still unclear, as ComputerWorld reports:

Microsoft olpc
Negroponte "just wants to see lower-cost computers in kids’ hands," he said. "If that means other companies filling this need, he’d still be happy as a clam. Our mission is not to beat Apple, Dell or Microsoft."

Still, Evans did venture to say that he felt Unlimited Potential, [the $3 MS package) along with moves by Microsoft’s traditional ally, Intel Corp., to produce its own low-cost PC, were only partial reactions to the OLPC.

Selling Windows XP and other software for $3 is "only a piece of the solution, whereas I believe the OLPC is a complete solution for that target market," he said.

What does XP on the OLPC mean for the constructivist pedagogies underlying the OLPC project? Will the view-source key just bring up the "Start" menu now?

On one hand, this increases government options with the OLPC, but on the other, it extends even further Microsoft's lock-in of the desktop. As a closed source product from a profit-driven company, we have little protection against costly upgrade paths. Plus, do we really want 100 million XP laptops in the hands of new users around? The fears of a massive OLPC botnet would be realized for sure! One wonders if anti-virus software is included for the $3 price tag.

Of further interest is that the XP product line is perilously close to dropping out of Microsoft's support lifecycle, it already got a bump after customer outcry, but is now slated to fade out of support in 2009, now that Vista has been released.

At least this is better than the SchoolNet Namibia story a few years back, when Microsoft donated Office, but not the OS, leading the project to investigate the cost of buying OS licenses so they could use the "free" Office... and went with Linux.

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6 Comments

The author should be equally distrustful of the OLPC integration with another "closed source product from a profit-driven company, (when) we (would) have little protection against costly upgrade paths".

That company is Google, as big, as closed and as profit-driven as Microsoft. But, of course, it is not fashionable to attack Google or its motivations...

C'mon, guys, use your brain a little bit. It is not hard: Microsoft is what it is (good, bad or in-between), but NOBODY is forcing Negroponte to make whatever decision he wants to make.

If you are certain that Windows XP will become integral part of the OLPC project, why not call Negroponte to task?

He is the one making the decisions, isn't he?

Troy, your point is valid overall. I think Google (though much younger) has so far a better track record, generally (*cough* China *cough* - but read their recent shareholder meeting notes at http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1288776/000119312507073756/ddef14a.htm#rom97745_48 )

While we all would love a Benklerian utopia of free cultural content created purely by peer production, we're not there yet. I'm more OK with OLPC partnering with ASPs such as Google - it's a lot easier to walk away from a website than it is to reinstall an OS.

"I'm more OK with OLPC partnering with ASPs such as Google - it's a lot easier to walk away from a website than it is to reinstall an OS."

What do you mean, exactly?

I was not alluding to the possibility of Google's homepage becoming the default desktop for the OLPC machine (even though that, too, has serious implications). The's far more than that:

http://www.olpctalks.com/walter_bender/walter_bender_olpc_meeting.html

ALL CONTENT and email will be stored by Google.

"So what we have behind the scenes is the differential filestore, and the differential filestore is automatically backed up to the school server. And so any time a kid comes to school, everything's backed up and then from there it's backed up to Google, and so there's this transparent flow. And the kids have some sense of affinity. "

Imagine what you would be writing if all content and email were to be handled by Microsoft?

Google DID contribute to the OLPC. And the OLPC really needs global off-site backup to protect the children's data.

I think NO company in the western world would like to be burn with children's personal data. A security breach could kill Google.

If XP runs on the 2b1, none of the goals of the OLPC will be reached:
- Office applications instead of education
- No controll in the hands of the children
- Highly dangerous computers for children (botnets, identity theft, data loss/theft, laptop theft)
- Limited networking
- No mesh with Linux 2b1's

Winter

there are two different discussions here. First there is the google question:
-Google gets to store all data on all activity of a whole generation of kids, and they get used to exchange their privacy for an infinite hard drive space. That's the google gamble: hard drive space in exchange for personal information

-Microsoft deal is a whole another. Windows XP is simply unsuitable for those machines. I do believe that if laptops where distributed with DOS and Win 3.11 that would still change their lives (that's what I grew u with as a kid and it had an impact on mine), but a specialized OS would simply do better.

But the problem is that it isn't a gamble as in google's case: it's about a power struggle for keeping windows a monopoly. There must be choice, and that choice includes MS: the best case scenario would a OLPC that shipped with a free OS that worked and that the children could later convert it to XP, based on their personal needs for software. But having a batch of Windows xps that forces every other kid on the community to also switch simply by incompatibility issues is unacceptable.

You know, I can't stop giggling about XP in the XO. Maybe Microsoft should rename it as the Windows XD and start preparing other versions, such as Windows O_o or Windows (>'.')>

(Lord, that was an awful joke).

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