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Microsoft's XO Laptop Strategy 242

gbulmash writes "Microsoft is spending a 'non-trivial' amount of money to get Windows XP working on the OLPC project's XO laptop. But why? Despite the conjecture that the Linux-based XO could convince millions of people in the developing world that they don't need Windows and build a huge base of developers for Linux, there still remains the question of how Microsoft would convince owners of XO laptops to buy and install Windows XP over the functional Linux-based OS already on it. It's doubtful that Microsoft could encourage or coerce Negroponte to put XP on the machine, so whose arms will they twist?"
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Microsoft's XO Laptop Strategy

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  • I can't wait (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:24PM (#21130159) Homepage

    Let's see. Three options.

    1. They give it away for free - Thus proving it's worthless and shovelware
    2. They charge a little - Thus proving it's over priced
    3. They let people pirate it - Thus proving that's OK

    That's a little tongue-in-cheek, but this can't end too well for them from my. This will also prove that the wee little power of the OLPC (compared to consumer computers in the US, etc) is enough for anyone... or it will run like a dog and turn off large chunks of these "customers" to their software.

    Nothing like buying/pirating that "nice Windows that everyone likes" and finding it will run slow and have to handle viruses and all that other stuff.

    Could end well, I kinda doubt it. But then I bet they'll be selling/giving out the crippled version that they offer in some countries that only lets you have 3 windows open (or whatever), and not the real thing.

  • Windows *XP*? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MSTCrow5429 ( 642744 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:25PM (#21130179)
    I guess Microsoft has begun to face reality, pushing XP over Vista.
  • what's the point? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by m2943 ( 1140797 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:29PM (#21130229)
    I don't see any point in porting desktop versions of Windows, since few of the applications are going to work anyway. Windows Mobile might make a limited amount of sense, but even there, I'd ask: why bother?
  • by Chapter80 ( 926879 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:37PM (#21130347)
    If Microsoft was smart, they'd complete the migration of Windows to OLPC. Then they'd charge a premium price for it (say $595, including Microsoft Works or Office).

    Then they'd fund an underground source (think of how they funded SCO) to develop an easy one-click port from OLPC Linux to Windows, keeping all valuable user files in tact.

    Then the underground source would accidentally leak it on the P2P networks, and the rouge pirate underprivileged kids would think they are "sticking it to the man" and getting something real valuable (Windows + Office), when in reality Ballmer is just training a whole new set of young people that they cannot live without Windows.

    Shhh don't mention this strategy to them!

  • by kebes ( 861706 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:39PM (#21130395) Journal

    They will release Windows XP trimmed down but it will only run if it recognizes the hardware as XO
    That would be interesting, since there are well-established solutions for emulating the XO [laptop.org] in a virtual image (mostly for development purposes). These could probably be adapted to run this modified Windows XP. I imagine that a trimmed-down XP running in a virtual machine would be very useful. It would run quickly and could thus easily fill the gap of running a few Windows apps on an otherwise FLOSS machine.

    No doubt Microsoft would try to create license terms to prohibit such usage, but without cooperation from the hardware designers in the OLPC project, I'm not sure they will have any technical ability to lock-out their Windows XP version from being run in virtual machines.
  • ... and because all orders are bulk orders in the millions, maybe they could cut the price dramatically.
    See, your problem is that you're thinking like a human being with a heart and soul who cares for his fellow man. Well, we have this thing called 'the internet' and it allows all software to be distributed 'in bulk' to everyone using the internet. I like your explanation and agree that that is how they should look at it. But it's obviously not because they could have treated everyone in the world as 'bulk' when they released their latest piece of MS Office software. Imagine downloading it to the tune of $5. It makes sense because then everyone would use it, everyone would pay the trivial cost and they would make a lot of money.

    But that's not the case because they know they can make more money. They balance their greed and desire for money with their market dominance. If they go too far one way, they lose ground on the other. Their marketing is so good they don't even worry about whether or not the software is great. Having coded web apps for IE, I can tell you in a heart beat I wish it never existed.

    Maybe they could even open source the low end version and turn the world into their kernel developer.
    You must be new here. Great idea, I agree with you but again, money. You and I both know that would improve Windows too much!

    Microsoft is putting more money into development of a product that's going to net them less cash than the original product they already dumped millions into. Something funny is going on here and I bet it has to do with them fearing losing world wide dominance on an operating system. Just in numbers! Start adding millions of machines running Linux bought by governments and suddenly your CEO reports can't brag insane digits of market share over Linux. It's probably more fear driven than anything--but the final thing they need to figure out is how they can get money out of this deal.
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:45PM (#21130501) Homepage Journal
    This is speculation on my part, but I'm guessing that in part this is flanking maneuver.

    Since there has been a computer industry, the most important place to keep an eye on is what I call "the high end of the low end". that's the place where computers are being stretched into new applications they didn't address before. First comes the killer application, then comes the figuring out how to steal application domains from the mid range.

    Any place that is going to have these devices already has all the conventional laptops and desktops it can support. These devices are creating a new class of low end devices, which leaves the machines currently running windows in the mid-range: the abode of dinosaurs.

    Some day Microsoft may face a government in a place that has millions of these devices in the hands of the populace, that may consider it a reasonable idea to migrate away from Windows because of that. Instead, Microsoft can make them a proposition: we'll cut you a deal on Windows for the OLPC so you can "upgrade" them to a real operating system. You will bring all those people on this toy operating system into parity with the rest of the world, which makes you a hero. And you get to do those major IT projects you are considering in Visual Studio 2010 instead of having to learn Python.

    The exact details of what they have in mind may be quite different; it may even be that they don't really have anything specific in mind. But Microsoft is a company that believe is technology; thus they take the possibility of OLPC's having a transformative effect on societies seriously. The possibility that OLPC can change the rules of the game. On the off chance it does, then the money spent to port Windows to the device will be a small price to pay to have a hand in the game. If it doesn't, they still take away knowledge about porting their platform to more resource constrained devices, so if anybody makes a splash in that area, they'll be prepared with an answer.
  • by ealar dlanvuli ( 523604 ) <froggie6@mchsi.com> on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:51PM (#21130609) Homepage
    No. The reason is very simple. Everywhere but the US, Microsoft exists in the market because of piracy. I doubt they expect to have a bunch of people buying XP. On the other hand, I bet they do expect a bunch of people pirate XP.

    Microsofts biggest fear is people will learn that computers don't have to be based on windows. Once that happens, they can't sell licenses to business and government, because the people won't only know windows so the businesses won't get it.

  • by smackenzie ( 912024 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:55PM (#21130685)
    1. There is an internal push by Microsoft to acquire 100 startups asap. Certainly there is a halo effect (no pun intended) in the company to "be a part of" other startups. This is an interesting startup.

    2. Despite the common perception on Slashdot, a lot of relevant Microsoft employees are smart, interesting, caring people who might just find getting their OS to work on this platform a tantallizing challenge.

    3. The work performed can be used down the road for similar devices. So, even if Windows XP doesn't materialize on OLPC, they can show off how it can be done for other, similar, vendors. (Isn't the Acer research program and a number of other companies' research programs indicating that they are investigating computers in this price bracket with similar features?)

    4. The Gates' foundation has had a HUGE impact on third world countries in many, many areas. We already know that the OLPC turned down Apple OS X because it proprietary components -- so no way will Windows XP be a default. But if Gates' foundation purchased the devices themselves (in quantities of many millions), installed Windows XP "OLPC Edition" and gave them away... it would be an interesting combination of altruism and self-servicing. Too many arguments on both sides to list them for this article.

  • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @12:57PM (#21130723) Homepage
    The first is the driving force behind all of Microsoft's actions (and, in fact, almost everyone's): money.

    Absolutely. But I think both of your ideas are off the mark (though you start to get it a bit later). The goal, here, probably isn't to make money selling Windows to XO users. In fact, I'll bet dollars to donuts their plan is to give away their port for free. No, the goal is to get people familiarized with Windows products. Remember, the developing world today will be the markets of the future for MS. Having an entire generation of children exposed to Windows could be a very good thing for Microsoft when those economies begin to mature.
  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @01:11PM (#21130971) Homepage Journal
    Oh, yes. Sweeeeeeet justice baby! Microsoft is now in the position of playing second fiddle, and now they have to prove that there is a compelling reason to use Windows over Linux.

    Of course, there will always be people who will do it. But I'd bet such people would be in the minority on this one, especially given the target market. Here's a fact: everybody needs an OS to do useful work on their computer. No one needs Windows. The fact is, despite what some might say, Linux is perfectly useable for the vast majority of computer users ... the people who claim they "need" Windows, other than hard-core gamers (since their major application is not available on Linux), if they really examined what they truly needed (a word processor, a web browser, a spreadsheet, a personal finance app), vs. what they claim they need ("100% Microsoft Office compatibility"), they'll find that most of what they claim as a need to have Windows is really a want and not a true need. A small -- but significant -- minority of computer users actually need Windows because the application they need has no equivalent on Linux.

  • "Competitors" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RealGrouchy ( 943109 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @01:18PM (#21131089)
    I read that story on the wire this morning, and noticed how it implies that "Linux" is just a "competitor" to Microsoft, as if it were just some other company providing the same type of product, but with slightly different features.

    At no point does the article discuss the nature of Linux, nor the inherent advantages (and disadvantages, since it's "objective" news) of open-source.

    While techies are at least familiar with the concepts of FLOSS, there's still a long way to go to get the mainstream to understand it. This article is a reminder of that.

    - RG>
  • Absolutely no chance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cafe Alpha ( 891670 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @03:40PM (#21133121) Journal
    that they can get MS bloatware working on the OLPC.

    Imagine trying to start MS Office Accounting 2007. It installs SQL-Server as a service just so it can run. That brings my boot time to something like 4 minutes on my 1 GB memory, Pentium-M machine. My machine thrashes just booting! I'm sure the rest of MS Office is just as bloated.

    Trying to run my copy of XP in a virtual machine under linux makes the machine thrash for 15 minutes before settling down to running REALLY slowly. They're attempting the impossible, no worries.
  • OLPC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xkhaozx ( 978974 ) on Friday October 26, 2007 @06:36PM (#21135071)
    I once went to a presentation by OLUG (Ottawa Linux Users Group) and they talked about the OCPL and even showed us one of the laptops and how it works. It's actually quite different then most laptops, and has a number of features that are really cool and some that I don't think XP can support by principle. The most important feature they pressed was the idea of Open Source, and being able to modify any component of the laptop (including any application, or even the OS). So basically, the laptop features a button that activates the 'Developer' view for the current program/feature being used. It then allows the user to modify this code and commit it, and thereby promoting the idea of open source development. The code will be stored using some sort of revision system so the user can go back and forth through their changes. Given that this idea is so important to the whole purpose of OLPC, and that XP will not offer source code, I can't see Microsoft being successful in this goal. If they're currently just working on getting XP to run on the hardware, its a complete waste of time, since theres a lot of other things they need to implement as well. One other really cool feature was the LCD screen that came with the laptop. When in normal lighting, you have a normal LCD screen, but when you go outside into the sun, a different lighting utility comes into use (I forget what its called), but its perfectly readable in bright sunlight, but is in only black and white.

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