Sugar Wins! Nobody Buying Windows XO Laptops

   
   
   
   
   

It was almost exactly one year ago that Nicholas Negroponte announced an agreement between OLPC and Microsoft to bring Windows XP to the XO-1 to great turmoil. I vividly remember the late-night flood of e-mails and IRC chats where everyone was trying to figure out just what that announcement really meant.


Beat by free as in Beer!

Interestingly, since then, we've heard only a few stories of Windows XO actually being used in deployments. At one point Microsoft proudly announced that Colombia had a Windows XO pilot and other countries with ongoing trials were mentioned at different points in time.

I've been wondering about what ever happened to these Windows XP-based OLPC trials. I haven't really heard anything about them in quite some time. Now more recently I've asked around and found there is a good reason why I haven't seen anything: countries are choosing Sugar over Windows XP for their XO deployments.

Apparently the conversations are going pretty much as many of us had expected: Initially country representatives inquire if Windows XP runs on the XO laptop. That doesn't really come as a surprise - for many people Windows is the definition of a computer. However, upon further investigation every country decided to stick to Sugar.

Which extra XP cost and hassle do you think kills the Windows XO idea?

Also, and I'm not quite sure whether this might be related, but I've heard that Microsoft Unlimited Potential is undergoing a reorganization as part of the Microsoft layoffs.


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11 Comments

This is great news, for two reasons. First, I simply can't believe that these low-power machines would function nearly as well using Windows as using Linux. Therefore, I'm glad to hear that ministries are not needlessly setting up teachers and students for frustration.

Secondly, the cost and energy consumption of educational computing can be brought down even further by new lower-power processors that definitely won't run well with XP. The fact that ministries are willing to buy Linux machines can encourage broader development of educational laptops of this sort.

First, I simply can't believe that these low-power machines would function nearly as well using Windows as using Linux.

That is very debatable. Sugar runs a lot of interpreted code, and runs a lot slower than native binary Linux distros on the same hardware, and running even a couple activities at once can deplete the RAM. WindowsXP runs surprisingly well on low end hardware. I've found it runs satisfactorily on PII-350 hardware, and with 256MB of RAM (and no swap) I've been able to run 5 standard desktop applications including Word 2007 and Excel 2007.

That said Sugar does seem to be a better choice as far as an end to end education solution, as the deployments are designed to come with some educational software and an interface designed for children. However there's a lot of work to do as far as bug fixes, deployment issues, content issues, etc.

This should however quiet the people that are moaning and complaining "Oh no, now that OLPC has 'switched to Microsoft' I've lost all faith in the program and humanity as a whole"

Very true. The big win was to kill the community momentum and good-will that OLPC and Sugar were generating. I rarely see blog posts or news about OLPC since the Windows port announcement. There was such a loss of inertia after that.

Another consideration is that XP is going to be phased out pretty soon. Windows 7 is not being ported, as far as anyone knows, to the XO-1. And it seems neither XP nor W7 is going to run on the ARM-based X0-2

My guess is Microsoft never really intended to go anywhere with Windows on the XO. I think idea was put out there just to confuse the education ministries and trip up olpc.

@eduardo montez:
"My guess is Microsoft never really intended to go anywhere with Windows on the XO. I think idea was put out there just to confuse the education ministries and trip up olpc."

I comletely agree with that.

MS lives of license fees. They need to earn $50-100 per computer to get their $1B monthly income (OS+Office). There is NO money for MS in Netbooks of any kind. Least of all on the XO. Therefor, the OLPC must die.

MS is doing everything they can to get the low cost netbook market killed. Their monopolistic license terms increase specifications and prices on the one (high-end) hand, and artificially cripple them on the low cost side. Note that the W7 netbook version is crippleware in extreme.

As a result, you cannot buy a cheap OTS netbook for Linux with 2G RAM and a Solid State Disk (which would be ideal for Linux). Or a larger screen for that matter.

Winter

"Apparently the conversations are going pretty much as many of us had expected: Initially country representatives inquire if Windows XP runs on the XO laptop. That doesn't really come as a surprise - for many people Windows is the definition of a computer. However, upon further investigation every country decided to stick to Sugar."

No, it doesn't come as a surprise, no matter the drama by some at the time of the announcement.

Which reminds me - perhaps it'd be 'educational' to ad the following posts to the Related Entries section...;)

"This is The End My Friend: Negroponte Says XP on XO in 60 Days"
( http://www.olpcnews.com/software/windows/xp_on_the_xo_in_60_days.html )

"Windows XO Video: No Dual Boot with Linux"
( http://www.olpcnews.com/software/windows/windows_xp_on_the_xo_video.html )

Delphi,

The "Related Entries" are automatically generated based on the tags in a post.

Is this a "win"? Seems to me OLPC has wasted a lot of manpower trying to make the XO BIOS XP-friendly. And perhaps one reason for why the XO-1.5 has more RAM and FLASH is because XP just didn't work well enough in the XO-1. (But of course now that the '1.5 has all that extra space, we can expect that the XO-1 will be orphaned as far as new software is concerned. Leaving the G1G1 donors high and dry.)

David Wallace wrote:

"Is this a "win"? Seems to me OLPC has wasted a lot of manpower trying to make the XO BIOS XP-friendly."

Only the blind followers will pretend that this is a "win". In fact, there is such groupie mentality in many of the OLPC followers that they blame Microsoft for Negroponte's decision (yes, it was Negroponte's idea and Negroponte's decision) to put XP on the XO.

The same happened when things went sour with Intel. Negroponte got in bed with Intel, but none of his followers ever had the integrity to question Negroponte's shady actions. They blamed Intel.

This is a project where things would not have been so bad if the supporters had had the intellectual honesty and balls to put Negroponte on the spot every time he lied or did something truly moronic. They had many of those chances...

This is a good, if Pyrrhic, victory - there was a lot of time and effort lost to get XP to run, and a lot of bad blood created.

Long-term, however, the fact that head-to-head, Sugar is winning installations after review by education ministries is fantastic:

-It's an important mindshare victory for open source, especially at the operating system level (on the computing side) and at the ministry-decision-makers level on the policy side. This win will put downstream decisions on software on a more level playing field (hopefully?)

-It reminds us that Sugar was developed with the hardware, the target environment, and education in mind -- and that this shines through.

-Schadenfreude.

Regarding my country:
The guy running XO-1 deployment in Peru told me last week that there hasn't happened much with the XP machines basically because XP is not running well or at all in the test computers, and that while Microsoft Peru is still pressuring for deployment there are no numbers decided nor any people from the actual XO-1 team working towards it. However, since it was announced by the Education minister himself (something he seldom does, talking to the press) it was considered a significant development. So it seems nothing has really happened nor is going to happen unless Microsoft pushes very hard and brings a lot of money to the table.

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