Who Actually Needs Windows XP on the XO Laptop?


I am Gaurav Chachra, founder member of OLPC India Student Chapter. Well, I've demonstrated XO to a couple of engineering students in India. And one question is common: Can it run Windows XP?

OLPC India
Looking for Windows XP?

We have been working on Windows since we first saw computers. Switching to a totally new system is a tough thing and not everybody can adapt. Why people demand XP to be available on XO? Because these people are used to Windows. And this has a major impact on acceptance of OLPC in various countries.

But whom are we targeting? Children. Children who are going to get technology in their hands for the first time . And that's where Sugar came in. A platform that works on the psychology of the learning process.

I gave my little cousin XO to play with. She was excited and took minutes to learn & enjoy it. And now, she doesn't think Windows XP is a good idea. But people need XP on OLPC. People who have been using Windows for years. People who also form the part of the government to decide on approving or rejecting OLPC. People who are not the target of OLPC.

But isn't acceptance the most important issue?

Yes, Egypt thinks XO should run Windows. It thinks so because government officials are habitual to it. But the children of Egypt are not. If they don't accept it today, tomorrow definitely they will when OLPC will prove by the great experience of countries who have accepted it today.

Why is OLPC in hurry? OLPC is a movement; a transformation process for developing world. As it grows, nations will feel its need. Then why is OLPC is looking for short term goals instead of the great vision with which it initiated.

OLPC India
XO laptops for inquiring minds

Shouldn't Open Source be just a means to reach the children and not center of OLPC's working? I never fail to repeatedly state in my presentations, "It's an education project, not a laptop project." - Nicholas Negroponte. Nicholas said this. And we repeat this with pride.

This is the pride of being a part of this social mission where providing education is the primary goal. Education is freedom; and that is what open source is. Freedom. That's the reason open source community full heartedly supports OLPC. A proprietary software snatches the freedom, then how are we advocating education? By the new vision, OLPC is much more a laptop project. Now I tend to lose the pride.

I know OLPC will get worldwide acceptance if it sticks to its original vision. Our organization, OLPC India Student Chapter is constantly working to make Indian government realize the importance of OLPC. It will definitely be a slow but rewarding process.

I'm still optimistic that OLPC will get back to the original mission for which I, and a huge lot of enthusiasts were passionate about.

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Two problems with Windows:

--in a year or two Microsoft is going to stop supporting XP. What happens then? Trying to put Vista in the XO?

--the XO doesn't fit into Microsoft's business model. The goal for the XO is for the price of the laptop to keep going down, with constant hardware specs, til it eventually reaches $50 and developing world families can buy them without having to worry about their corrupt governments. Microsoft's model is to to keep the price of its software high, like %50 for the os, and keep it burried in the total expense of an oem piece of hardware that stays at $500+. If Microsoft today sells Windows for the XO at a few dollars, the intention will be for it to raise the price once the project has become locked in.

Windows XP support is slotted to end in June, not in a couple of years.

How is OLPC 'locked into windows'? If Microsoft stops supporting XP can't the program switch back to Linux? Isn't the point that Sugar can run on top of anything?
Isn't the point that the children get the laptops now?

1. On June, 30th Microsoft will stop offering XP to OEMs for regular PC, for UMPC (like the XO) it will be 1 year after the release of the Vista successor, whenever that might be.
Extended support (like security updates) is scheduled to run till April 2014.
2. Nobody talks about Windows or Sugar, but about dual-boot.
3. Freedom also means freedom of choice!

Get the facts straight!

Windows XP mainstream *sales* end on June 30, 2008, if Microsoft holds out against OEM's wishes; consumer support is going to last until April 2009, but 'business and developer' Extended Support goes until 2014, which may be what OLPC programs will fall under.

@Civilian: It's not the OLPC hardware; it's the OLPC *programs* that will be locked in to XP if that's what they install on every laptop, and what they write their curricula and training programs, and what all the myriad third-party education software that every classroom will need will list as a fundamental system requirement. It's dead-hard to change operating systems when you already depend on a ecosystem of proprietary ISV products.

OLPC doesn't offer "curricula and training programs" and third parties aren't writing Sugar specific applications anyway. I thought sugar was an application, not an operating system so the choice is windows/linux not windows/sugar. By using windows you open the machine to the educational software that's already written, instead of spending a lot of time porting it over.

The key point regarding XP is that Microsoft is desperate to stop selling it to oem's and also the general public, because it wishes to force everyone over to Vista. and is going to do this in a year or two. Once that happens newly manufactured XO's won't be able to run XP because Microsoft won't sell it to them. The only way the XO could continue on Windows would be to greatly up the hardware specs so it could run Vista. That is what Microsoft wants, but it runs counter to XO's plan to radically cut hardware costs.

As to lock-in, I don't know if Microsoft could accomplish it, and that is what it wants. This is not a matter of whether Microsoft is evil, and is not a matter of whether open source software supporters are irrational fanatics. It is a simple matter of what each party wants. Microsoft wants to go a certain direction, and it is radically different from where olpc is trying to go. Microsoft is in business to make money, and it does this very successfully by following a certain business model. Olpc is following a different model that undermines Microsoft's model, and so is a grave threat. For that reason Microsoft has to do everything it can to turn olpc into something much different and harmless. Just because what Microsoft is selling right now seems like it might be good for olpc doesn't mean it actually will be in the long term.

Know this, there has only been talk of dual booting and nothing about a full Sugar interface running on just the Windows OS under it. There is a reason for this and it is likely because Microsoft would not want their OS hidden by a better desktop for kids. They want these kids to learn the Microsoft way of doing things so it is "hard" for them to use something else. Think about the resistance OLPC is getting now because of adults who only know the Windows desktop and think that Sugar is too difficult. The kids will have no problems with Sugar and that has already been proven over and over at the OLPC pilot sites.

Now here's something I heard recently, why doesn't OLPC try adding Windows XP Embedded? Even going to Microsoft and try to license XPE for the XO and see what they say about putting just enough of Windows XP on the XO so that Sugar can run on top of it. If they go for it, then Egypt should be able to purchase the millions they promised. But if Microsoft does not go for this, then OLPC should see what is really Microsofts motives. But as was mentioned, all we hear about is dual booting a full version of Windows XP and that includes its desktop. Negroponte mentioned pulling Sugar apart so that Sugar applications run on the Windows desktop but totally misses that Sugar is a complete system, not just an application frame work and there is a reason for that. Ease of use first and foremost so that it's easy to learn the activities and share/learn with others.

So I ask, why have we not heard anything about the version of Windows called Windows XP Embedded? Why have we not heard of a way to put a trimmed down version of Windows under the complete Sugar desktop layer so the porting task is reduced to mostly device driver work and the very lower parts of Sugar? Is it because those running the show are being snow-balled by Microsoft on what is really going on? Do they even know that Microsoft signed a multi-million dollar deal with Egypt just a couple of years ago and it was all about Windows all over Egypt. Do they wonder why the first thing out of the Egyptian officials mouths were "does it run Windows?"?

It will be a mistake moving to the full Windows desktop and the best way around this and to "out" Microsoft's intentions is to go straight to Windows XP Embedded as the "alternate" supported software on the XO.

If you want free Windows laptop (without doubt, with fully functional and completely legal copies of MS Office and Adobe Photoshop, free Internet access, and a year of WoW subscription), please start a "Free Windows laptops for poor people" charity, and see how many will participate.

Otherwise stop turning an educational project into... what is an antonym for "education", again? "Marketing"?

Microsoft is a disease.

If you roll over and accept money from them or collaborate with them in any way, you are a pitiful, miserable, soulless wretch of a human being who deserves no forgiveness.

Microsoft is a disease - but its sufferers do not need forgiveness, they need a cure.

It seems to me the only way to 'beat' Microsoft if for Sugar/Linux to put up or shut up. Show the government officials (the ones who are BUYING the machines) what Linus/Sugar IS, not what it's GOING TO BE. Face the fact that they don't care about open source purity and constructionism, they care about basic literacy for 6-12 year olds. They don't care if one kid learns to write his own operating system, they care if 1000 kids can read, write and multiply.
Show them that the XO does that and you don't have to worry about Microsoft. Otherwise, the XO does a lot of things that they are not interested in. It may be the same old thing buy people understand how rote learning works and they don't understand how learning learning work.

is OLPC open source? has it ever been?

And I don't mean Sugar, which is FOSS, or the XO and other hardware, which are treated as for-profit proprietary designs.

I mean OLPC, the Delaware non-profit corporation, its proceedings, its use of resources, its policies, etc.

This is not a rhetorical question, I'd really want to have someone who knows inform us all on this matter.


Open source only applies to companies if one doesn't understand what "open source" means (like many do these days, it seems). The definition of "Open Source" is here: http://www.opensource.org/docs/osd .

I think you meant "transparent", so you're asking "Is OLPC a transparent organization"?

"Microsoft is a disease.
If you roll over and accept money from them or collaborate with them in any way, you are a pitiful, miserable, soulless wretch of a human being who deserves no forgiveness."

You are kidding ... right?

You're right Martin. I would want more transparency also.

My point is that I want OLPC hardware to be FOSS. Thus the hardware side of the project can go ahead. Even if the factory doesn't deliver, someone else can pick up. Zillions of companies in China would be more than happy to put XOs on the shelves, if given a chance, just like they do with iPods.

My personal experience regards Potenco chargers. I had zero idea until a couple days ago that the main reason we are not seeing them except as advertising for the company is that Potenco wants to charge a lot more than OLPC wants to pay, or what they would go for if competition came in. Of course, if their design is proprietary, they have all the right not to share it, but some people (too gullible noobs like me) did get confused and thought that the chargers were part of the non-profit side of the bazaar.

As to me and my house, we provide our experience to the community for free, to benefit those who cannot afford proprietary, or just plain prefer FOSS.

Nobody needs Windows. Since we're not allowed to understand and modify it, using it makes us poorer. When Minsky talks about School-Mathematics : http://wiki.laptop.org/go/What_makes_Mathematics_hard_to_learn%3F#The_Impoverished_Language_of_School-Mathematics
he says that children are "mentally starved" because they lack the vocabulary to qualify things like addition or multiplication. Windows users are also mentally starved and most of them will never understand computing.

Some facts:
- The linux operating system of the XO-1 is called the Sugar OS
- Sugar is also the name of the desktop environment of the Sugar OS (it is like Gnome or KDE)
- Microsoft never talked about dual booting Linux and Windows on the XO. (given the limited hardware, this doesn't seem to be possible either). They develop their Windows variant to be the only and primary OS on the XO.
- The Sugar desktop environment is heavily Ptython based and theoratically could be ported to Windows. Nobody seems to be working on it though.

As real-life G1G1 XO owner, I can say the following about the current status of the XO and Sugar OS:
- The hardware has some problems but otherwise seems to be stable (sticky key problem affects a larger percentage of XO owners, but can be fixed at home if you are willing to take it apart) We don't know if it has issues regarding features not yet supported by Sugar OS (power management)
- The stable version of Sugar OS practically doesn't have power management at all. My typical runtime is 3.5 hours. No suspend, no hibernation. Some developer builds give partial power management but nothing like the original promises. It is not possible to suspend the machine with powering down the wifi radio and that drains your battery in a couple of hours even in suspended mode (if you can call it that).
- The first major update (Update 1) to Sugar OS is in a 2.5 month delay and it looks like it will never be ready. We don't know if somebody working on it at all (I don't see much progress).
- The applications in the Sugar environment (Browser, Write, Read) are forked, and stripped-down versions of their original open-source base (Firefox, Abiword, Evince). The browser is practically unusable, everybody installs Opera onto the XO to be able to use it as a browser machine. Read is not a real ebook-reader application it is only Evince, forked and ported to the Sugar environment. If you want to read on the XO you need to install a real ebook-reader app.

From this perspective, a working Windows OS for the XO can be of help. Especially if it has power management like a normal laptop. If it supports mesh-networking that is another plus.

In the midst of all this talk about XP on the XO, I haven't read any details on why folks want it. Is there a specific list of XP apps? Seems like the system requirements for most of them would preclude running very well on the XO.

I've seen mention of Windows based education software, but exactly which titles? Or is it a matter of wanting a GUI based file manager like Windows Explorer? Pretty screensavers and desktop backgrounds? Downloading and installing .exe's with a few clicks?

Sure, Sugar is buggy and kinda aggravating sometimes, but if you're going to run it, why would it matter that there's XP underneath as opposed to Fedora? It just seems like XP would introduce a host of unnecessary security issues, like having to run a virus scanner. The processor can barely keep up with stuff as it is. And then there are the constant Windows security updates.

Until I see a list of specific end user requirements, I'm just going to figure that folks want XP just for the sake of having XP, not for anything in particular. There's nothing I can think of that an XP machine can do that I can't do with something equivalent on my Linux machine. Well, besides get infected with viruses.

And let's not forget the school server. Are they going to run Windows server software on those? That would sure be a heck of a lot more expensive for hardware and then you'd have to pay for the software. Not to mention the stability issues that would be introduced.

Not being able to read the mind of every Minister of Education (MOE) in the world (something OLPC thought they could do) I think the requirements of OLPC are different than the requirements of the MOEs.

OLPC wants to push constructionism and open source software.

MOEs want something that plugs into their existing systems (most likely Windows)and that their IT people can easily support. In addition, MOEs want to have the option to buy software or use opensource software from somewhere other than OLPC. XO with Sugar means rewriting existing opensource educational software. Like it or not, there's a ton of existing opensource software that runs under windows, and a lot that runs under Linux. I think the XO with the interface that EEEs run would be just as attractive to the MOEs.

Well said, Maddie.

I want to pull up a NN quote that was posted as a news item on 3/10/2008:

"Negroponte added that the Windows operating system should be available on the XO in less than 60 days."

We are approaching the 60 day mark and there hasn't even been a glimmer of a hint of a rumor that an XO-optimized version of Windows will be available within the next week.

So it might be a good idea to hold off on the "sky is falling" hyperbole until (or if) that ever materializes.

"Why is OLPC in hurry?"

The OLPC is in a hurry, because it truely believes that it's work is integral to lifting these children out of poverty. As it stands, it would be irresponsible of them to reject Windows if it would enable more widespread adoption of the XO.

Windows is not necessary on the XO. I have the new Ubuntu 8.04 running on it, and it is 100% stable and a lot faster than the Fedora build it came with. If Fedora/Sugar isn't good enough (as there are some bugs in it) then you can still use open source on it - just switch to Ubuntu.

You forget to mention that your Ubuntu on the XO runs on top of the stock Sugar OS (Fedora) kernel. It is a horrible hack to put it on the XO and you still don't have any meaningful power management (this should be in the kernel). Ubuntu is currently not supported on the XO, only as a hack by enthusiasts. Nevertheless, I would put it on mine in a heartbeat if it provided at least real suspend-resume (so I wouldn't have to shut down my XO all the time, it boots up horribly slow).

I believe my requirements are not really different from a pupil's:
- A convenient ebook reader app which remembers the book I last read and remembers the page positions in the documents I have read. It is a READER application (Like MS Reader) not only a document viewer like Evince.
- A fast and full featured browser like Opera or Internet Explorer for checking my mail, viewing wikipedia...etc
- A full featured word-processor like Abiword, OO Write or MS Word (for essays or note taking)
- Perfect suspend-resume in order to start using my laptop in seconds. When the laptop is in suspend, it doesn't consume meaningful energy. A 2 minute boot is not acceptable for regular stop-start work (pupils have that).

"The goal for the XO is for the price of the laptop to keep going down, with constant hardware specs,"

Could you share with us where this is quoted from? I know OLPC is working on an XO-2 already for many months, with improved specs (like a decent power plug, for example :-))

I agree that a constant specs, ever cheaper machine would be a great idea, especially if it were cloned like the Apple IIe or the IBM PC were in their day, and maybe with more RAM.
How come those machines were clonable and the XO so far hasn't?

eBay still has XOs for over $300, though supposedly they are less that $200 wholesale. That tells the problem right now is supply, not demand, so the whole XP to get buyers is rather silly.



The ebay prices are for G1G1 XOs, which are of a limited finite quantity due to the G1G1 program no longer taking orders. That limited supply has no relation to the overall supply of XOs, which is of a constantly expanding supply due to continued manufacturing. In this latter case, if demand increased, the supply would increase in kind, and the price of the XOs per unit would decrease.


The reason why you haven't heard of using XP Embedded on the OLPC is because MS wants to offer a full Windows experience on the XO, and not just a backend for Sugar. Sugar already has a functional backend. MS very likely is using XPE as their base for their XO version, much like they used XPE for the low-resource Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs.

Also, keep in mind that XP on the XO is a project spearheaded by MS, and not an project OLPC actively engaged in. OLPC is supporting it in limited ways, but due to the open specs of XO, there really wasn't any way OLPC could STOP Windows from being ported over.

To those worrying over MS dropping support for XP; remember that it was Microsoft's idea to make the port, not OLPC. Due to the emerging market of ULCPCs, MS is going to keep selling XP to certain vendors until AT LEAST 2010, possibly longer. The idea behind putting XP on the XO isn't to make a buck off of that product, but to indoctrinate the children that use it to the Windows platform, so that when they grow up and purchase their own PCs, or make purchasing decisions for their businesses, that they buy Windows.

The OP is right, the children that use the XO don't need Windows, and that fact is scary to MS. Luckily, the adults that are actually making the purchasing decisions have either bought into Intel's Classmate premise that you need Windows, or are just stuck in their ways and can't accept an OS outside their own. Offering XP as an option to those adults will move more XOs, but hopefully it won't come at a cost to the children and their education.

Jay G wrote a lot of nonsense:

"Also, keep in mind that XP on the XO is a project spearheaded by MS, and not an project OLPC actively engaged in."

Not true. Whatever is happening, it is important enough that Negroponte feels that's the way to go. In fact, he is offering the possibility of the XO with Windows as a way of adding value to his product, in light of the general lack of interest shown by prospective buyers.

"OLPC is supporting it in limited ways, but due to the open specs of XO, there really wasn't any way OLPC could STOP Windows from being ported over."

That sounds like bad boy Bill Gates is raping poor Cinderella Negroponte. For all honest observers, it looks like Cinderella Negroponte is willingly in bed with Microsoft, just the way she was willingly in bed with Intel. As always, she will come out of the motel claiming big, bad Bill was no gentleman in bed, but we know she is no Cinderella,either, so...what's new under the sun?


Yama: "Could you share with us where this is quoted from? I know OLPC is working on an XO-2 already for many months, with improved specs (like a decent power plug, for example :-))"

Olpc has long made clear they want the price to eventually drop down to $50, and the only way to do that is to keep the hardware specs constant, or at least nearly so. As far as I know that is true for the X0-2. I should have been clear that by "hardware specs" I meant basic computing power -- cpu speed, RAM, etc.

Jay G: "Due to the emerging market of ULCPCs, MS is going to keep selling XP to certain vendors until AT LEAST 2010, possibly longer."

I did say a year or two, so it could go to 2010, but what then? Remember, Microsoft is in a bad situation here, since it is desperate to get people off of XP, but XO and the other ULCPCs are pushing it to keep selling XP. If it was forced to keep selling XP far into the future, it would be a terrible defeat for Microsoft and undermine its whole business model. That makes me pretty sure that at some point it is going to cut off XP.


Nothing I said was untrue or "nonsense." All the work done for porting Windows to the XO was done by MS, and initiated by MS. Negroponte's call for Sugar on Windows, in addition to other OSes, isn't that much different than what other people have been clamoring for for a while now. If Sugar becomes OS and hardware independent, then it can grow as an education platform used by everyone, not just those with XOs.

All the quotes from Negroponte regarding Windows on the OLPC call for a dual-boot system. Guess what other computer manufacturer touts dual-boot capabilites? Macintosh. However, I don't see Apple dropping OS X support anytime soon.

Apple touted support for Windows as a way to get people to buy their hardware and native OS with the reassurance that people can still run the software they're used to and/or may "need" for certain applications. However, once people switch to Mac, their use of Windows dwindles as they find OS X to be perfectly suitable for most of their needs. A similar situation can occur with the XO, using Windows support to get their foot in the door, so to speak. Selling it with Windows could appease the adults doing the purchasing, while the end-users, the kids, end up booting to Linux/Sugar 99% of the time anyway.


Microsoft has confirmed that they WILL be selling Windows XP to ULCPC vendor until 2010.


As for after that, Microsoft has already shown to be flexible in its OS offerings for underpowered systems with Windows Fundamentals for Legacy Systems. That offering doesn't cut into their OS sales that much since it's targeted at PCs that can't use their standard OS offerings anyway, and it's only made available to a specific market. MS could do the same with XP on the XO, continuing to sell it on that platform long after they've stopped selling it on even other ULCPCs.

I don't see why MS wouldn't continue to offer Windows for the XO as long as the XO is continued to be manufactured, as the alternative for MS, not having an OS offering for a continually manufactured XO, is much worse for them.

Perhaps they'll branch off of XP and develop a specifically underpowered OS for ULCPCs, or strip down Vista like they have XP. MS is developing MinWin for Windows 7, which may allow for a no-frills low-resource version of that OS. Failing that, Windows CE runs on x86 architecture.

Even if MS decides to drop XO support completely (which is unlikely), there's the possibility that the Windows clone ReactOS could be usable by that time, or Wine could be run under a Linux port. So Windows support on the XO isn't likely to disappear.

Ubuntu can run with a OLPC kernel with power management. Read the procedure on the wiki; it requires to install the OLPC kernel, and the latest joyride kernel supports power management. Also, it's possible to recompile this kernel and provide it as a Ubuntu package, as I did myself. There's no reason to believe that Ubuntu could not be adapted for the XO. It would even be possible to recompile a special distribution with Geode optimisation for a 20% performance boost.

We know that Microsoft has made certain business arrangements with some of the worlds governments( Egypt, Thailand, etc ) and those "arrangements" are quite lucrative to those governments to the tune of 10's of millions of dollars. So we also know that OLPC is unlikely to sell the Linux-Sugar XO into those markets because of these Microsoft contracts and Mr Negroponte and crew have figured this out.

So if what is planned with "Windows XP on the XO" is really just a ploy to sell a couple of million Windows XP XOs to these lockout countries while at the same time moving the original Linux-Sugar XO forward in deployments and development, why does it seem Sugar is getting left behind? Is Walter Bender so "fanatical" that he'd quit because they plan to allow Microsoft to put Windows on the XO to sell a few million units to countries who won't purchase them otherwise? And quit while the OLPC project has no plan to change course with the current Linux-Sugar designs?

Something is missing or we have all over analyzed and over reacted to this. It does seem there has been too little clarifying what is really the plan at OLPC. Personally, I dislike the fact that Microsoft can and does buy off governments to block their choice of technologies but US anti-trust laws have no say in the matter. Given that they do this and it's a fact of life, I also have no problem with Microsoft putting Windows XP on the XO and allowing these devices to be sold into those markets as along as Microsoft is the one who covers all support and deployment costs and it has no effect on the OLPC personnel. And I say this because I've seen and used Sugar on the XO and find it to be a very well thought out design. A design specifically targeted toward the education at the primary school age kids. I also agree with the goal of building Sugar Activity based curriculum in an open forum and openly published for all to use and modify and knowing that this will be developed and expanded along with the Linux-Sugar deployments.

Windows XP and the standard Windows desktop will be a failure and a frustration for educators at the primary school level because way too much time and effort will be spend dealing with all the different user interface mechanisms. For instance just getting to ones homework and finishing that up. There are just too many ways to save files, find files and open files and students will be dealing with this instead of doing their project/homework. But when government officials are paid off, their kids get to learn Windows for what that is worth and we already know that the version of Windows they'll use 10 years from now or even 5 years from now is not going to be the same or look the same so all the time spent on dealing with that version of Windows XP is pretty much lost time and of little value other than knowing and becoming quite familiar with the Microsoft brand name.

That's my take on this and unless the OLPC folks so some better PR, it is unfortunate but things are probably going to slow down somewhat on the Sugar front.

Microsoft is not a disease it is a drug pusher. The earlier you can hook someone on a drug the better. It would even be profitable for Microsoft to pay for all the OLPC laptops and to give them away free, for, then, they would have a generation of people hooked on their drug. However, they are too smart to do this, because everyone would see what their game is. Addiction to MS Windows is not healthy computing.

It's all about getting kids computers. I am a Unix head from way back. I'm more comfortable in VI than Microsoft Word. But, if being able to ship the XO with Windows XP on it allows OLPC project to sell a few million XOs, and that brings the price down to $100 per computer, then I'm all for it.

Microsoft has different license for "Developed" vs. "Developing" countries. In the U.S., buying Windows will set you back a bit more than a "C" note, and Windows XP won't be supported in a few years. (The June deadline has to do with selling new copies of XP. XP will be supported in the U.S. for quite a few years after that. Heck, it was only in December that Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 2000). However, in developing countries, the license for Windows XP is under $10, and Microsoft will support and sell Windows XP for quite a long time.

Windows is not a terrible OS. It isn't my favorite, but it really isn't all that bad. It is fairly powerful and has a solid list of features. It also has a wide range of programs including an innumerable range of games and educational packages. The big ding against it is that it is not only proprietary, but it doesn't even like playing too well with others. Microsoft will come up with their own programs rather than ever using any open source program.

I also see why these developing country customers may not want a computer that doesn't run Windows. There is a long inglorious history of imperialism and paternalism between the developed and developing worlds. I can imagine bureaucrats being suspicious about the OX not being a "real computer". To them, it looks like another case of the "West" knowing better what the developing world needs. To them the whole OLPC initiative might look like: "Look, it's what we call a "com-pu-ter". It has a picto-gram OS! You can color and make pretty pictures! It is very simple because you are not as smart and sophisticated as we are."

It may well be that these countries might not even bother with the Windows version of the XO now they know it runs Windows. They may simply feel better that the XO isn't just some toy, or that their students have a potential to grow with it. Once their students get older, they can read and write Word documents, use Excel, and work with the rest of the corporate world.

David W., I have to completely disagree with you.
I'm from Egypt, which is a developing country. And no, XP licences here are as expensive as in the US (maybe except for educational institutions where you can get original MS Products for less that 10$).
And the imperialism argument isn't true either. If you look at it another way, MS represents the pinnacle of globalization and westernization while free software on the other hand is neutral, so why do these governments (like the Egyptian government, for example) usually endorse MS instead of free software.

Mohammed Gamal.
I would very much like to understand the same thing. Why would developing countries endorse M$ while they have the chance to educate their next generation of employees on an OS which in my opinion is competitive in the functions while giving them the chance to be independant in their next generation IT Infrastructure from a convicted american Monopolist. If only 1% of the now students would find the (in)famous Sugar "source code" button and become great unix administrators - wouldn't that be a chance for a nation to actually own the native human ressources to run their IT Infrastructure on free and open source software. From what I saw in the video I believe that MS put time and effort into making XP work well on the XO but I think this "comfort" comes with an unseen price. As soon as the GDP in that country will go up due to better education, so will the licensing fees of Microsoft. At the end they are a business and that's what they have to do - generate revenue. They will use their thumbscrews on anyone as much as they can just to keep their capitalist stockholders happy.

Let Coca Cola donate a coke fountain in a desert with free supply, it will in the short term help still the thirst and everyone looks cool on top, but give them the tools and educate them to dig their own well and they will be independant in the long term. I know this is far fetched but it ultimatively comes down to my opinion that western world businesses have no glamourous past in helping developing nations to develop to a point where they could generate a thread to their income.