16
May
08

One Laptop Per Child Embraces Windows XP

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) has entered into an agreement with Microsoft laptopgoverning the installation of Windows XP on the nonprofit organization’s low-cost  XO laptops for use by impoverished children around the world.

The partners, which are scheduled to begin conducting pilot programs in emerging markets next month, expect the Windows-powered XO laptop to be ready for full-scale deployment in August or September, said James Utzschneider, manager of Microsoft’s developing-markets unit.

“Initially it will only be available in emerging-market countries where governments or NGOs are subsidizing the purchase of a large number of PCs for students,” Utzschneider said. “But there is the possibility of making this available for other customers through a broader set of channels at a later point in time.”

Opening the Door

Microsoft announced last month that it would extend the life of Windows XP through the development of an abbreviated version to meet the needs of an emerging new class of mobile-computing devices known as ultra-low-cost PCs (ULCPC), which typically have smaller screen sizes and lower-powered processors than more expensive laptops. The XO laptop, in particular, posed a number of technical constraints that took a year for Microsoft to overcome.

“Windows was too big to fit on the 1GB non-flash module on the motherboard, so we are using a 2GB SD memory card,” explained Bohdan Raciborski, group program manager for Microsoft. “So we had to first create a BIOS, because at that time there were no PC BIOSs that supported SD cards.”

In a 2GB volume, Raciborski noted, it becomes possible have a complete Windows and Office experience running on the XO laptop. Moreover, it takes about 50 seconds for Windows XP to boot up on the XO, he said.

“We haven’t modified Windows or Office in any way — we haven’t removed any components to have them run on this hardware,” Raciborski said. “You can do almost anything that a student or teacher would want to do.”

The Ultimate Goal

Many members of the open-source Linux community will no doubt be less than thrilled to learn that OLPC is partnering with Microsoft and embracing Windows. However, the new partners point out that some XO customers and partners worldwide have been requesting Windows support.

“Windows support on the XO device means that our students and educators will now have access to more than computer-assisted learning experiences,” said Andr�s Gonzalez D�az, governor of Cundinamarca, Colombia. “This will also develop marketable technology skills, which can lead to jobs and opportunities.”

Microsoft also believes that having Windows XP on the XO will improve the chances of users getting help should the device experience a technical problem or be in need of an upgrade. “There are hundreds of millions of Windows machines out there in the world today, which means there are thousands and thousands of people who know how to deploy, support, fix and upgrade them,” Utzschneider explained.

The ultimate goal, the two organizations say, is to build a version of the XO laptop by 2010 that can host both Windows XP and Linux. “Future plans for a dual-boot version of the XO laptop” will enhance OLPC’s ability “to use technology to transform education by bringing connectivity and constructionist learning to the poorest children throughout the world,” said OLPC founder and Chairman Nicholas Negroponte.

 

Via Yahoo


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