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OLPC, Microsoft Working Toward Dual-Boot XO Laptops 231

Ian Lamont writes "The OLPC Project and Microsoft are developing a dual-boot system to put both Linux and Windows on the laptops, according to an interview with Nicholas Negroponte. The article is thin on details, as the OLPC/Microsoft talks are apparently at an early stage. Could this be the end of the OS wars in Nigeria and other developing countries?" While Microsoft has been working on an OLPC-capable version of Windows for some time now, the interesting thing here is the dual-booting provision, rather than forcing users into an either-or choice.
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OLPC, Microsoft Working Toward Dual-Boot XO Laptops

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  • Delusional (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @04:49PM (#21974188) Journal

    It's a brand new development for the XO laptops, as the low-cost notebooks are known, and came about because of Microsoft's friendlier attitude toward open-source software.
    Dear Dan Nystedt of ComputerWorld, the English language lacks the proper words that I need to express how wrong you are. I only wish I knew German so I could scream the rest of this post at you.

    What caused you to write that sentence, I will never know. Was Stevie B. holding a firearm to your head when you wrote this article? Or simply placing a sack with a large green $ on your desk?

    Seriously, this is an all out attack on open source software. They are vying for the young minds of every single child in developing countries. What is so special about this that GRUB or LILO cannot be used for the dual booting? Is Microsoft developing the code to dual boot? I would be shocked if they were.

    If you claim Microsoft just wants to make sure the kids get the best operating system for learning, why weren't they handing out free copies of Windows and Office to 3rd world children/schools before the OLPC project started? Because they'd rather give away their product than let a competitor fall into the hearts and minds of these children. Linux has always been free to everybody. Think about it.

    Microsoft has embraced the open-source community over the past few years in a very different way than before, Negroponte said. "And that really helps, because it's become a little bit less religious than it was a few years ago and that's really good. In the end, I think, the more people that have software and hardware out there, the better."
    Has the whole world gone mad? I'm all for getting the children any operating system they want, in fact I'm glad they will have that choice. But to say that Microsoft has embraced the open-source community is ... strange at best. They may have created their own pseudo-open source community within their company but little more.

    Those 419 patent violation accusations [slashdot.org] ... that's "embracing" someone?

    It may have become a little less religious recently but only so far as the ends justify Microsoft's means. They are interested in profit, nothing more. I would love to applaud them for coming around and realizing that open source software is a viable solution for making money--and even improving a product! But I cannot say that today. They only actively threaten it in underhanded ways.
  • by lazyforker ( 957705 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:05PM (#21974444)
    I only hope this is total BS. The last thing this project needs is "help" from M$FT. The XO is a fine product and well-suited to its purpose: a platform to introduce people to technology, programming, etc. Nothing but the imagination, ingenuity and creativity of a child is needed. The only reason Microsoft are interested is that they want to poison the minds of the XO owners. Asshats.

    First Intel attempted, and now Microsoft is trying to torpedo this project because they realize it's a threat to their future markets. Imagine a whole generation of Linux-schooled programmers writing the next killer apps, or buying last year's hardware to run Linux desktops (or servers!) - now imagine how Wintel feel about that.
  • by OgGreeb ( 35588 ) <og@digimark.net> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:05PM (#21974450) Homepage
    I'm not sure I get it. Regardless of whatever discount Microsoft will provide, Windows costs more than Linux, needs more hardware resources to run properly, requires more and deeper technical support, is highly susceptible to malware and, for the intended audience (children aged 8-16 in technology-under served poor communities) either overkill or harder to work with in general. It's not just the OS, either. Many of the third-party programming and application tools that come bundled with the Sugar/Linux environment cost more with the Windows OS. The only semi-cogent argument I've heard supporting Windows being deployed in this environment is that the children will somehow be disadvantaged when they grow up and take on jobs that will use Windows. Meanwhile there is every indication that the primary office tasks expected of any information worker (word processing, spreadsheet, Internet browsing and communications) will be migrating to Web-based appliances in the near future, almost certainly by the time the kids are ready to move into those jobs, and further diminishing any value of using Windows as the OS.

    To my mind, Windows seems like an expensive and unneeded distraction for these children.
  • by sracer ( 534850 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:16PM (#21974630)
    While it is true that point of the OLPC is education, and that presenting source code is one way of doing that, it doesn't mean that the source code to the underlying OS needs to be exposed. There is nothing preventing an XO laptop from running a very trimmed down version of Windows (XP, CE, whatever) and supplying applications that can have their source code available.
  • Eww (Score:5, Insightful)

    by starfishsystems ( 834319 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:21PM (#21974742) Homepage
    The OLPC project, as originally conceived, had huge collaborative potential. Put an open platform into the hands of many, many people. Let them figure out what direction they want to take it.

    Close that platform, and suddenly it makes no sense at all. It's no longer an extensible means of cultural and technological expression but just another consumer product, good for nothing more than keeping the Third World in its place, right at the bottom.

    Thanks, Microsoft, for staying in character.

  • by paxgaea ( 219419 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:26PM (#21974816)
    "The only semi-cogent argument I've heard supporting Windows being deployed in this environment is that the children will somehow be disadvantaged when they grow up and take on jobs that will use Windows."

    As far as I am concerned, you touched on THE key point as to why Microsoft thinks it is a good idea (in fact, they should view it as near essential to their survival in these areas of the world) to work with the OLPC. If you have a generation of children who grow up knowing open source operating systems and software inside and out, there is no need for Microsoft, at home, in their offices, anywhere. These countries will not touch Microsoft products within a generation, because it will not be 'the coin of the realm', since the entire technical portion of their economy will only know open source....unless of course if Microsoft gets a foothold, and the OLPC is a good place to start.

    Pretty damn good business decision, very forward-thinking (in a 'there is profit to be made here' sorta way), if you ask me. How many companies do you know that think 2 decades into the future. Most operate with short term gain in mind.

    I personally think it is a bad thing overall, but who am I to deny the 'children' their right to choice? (don't do it kids! it's a scam!)
  • by blitzkrieg3 ( 995849 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:32PM (#21974934)
    I guess that rules out this theory [slashdot.org].
  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:33PM (#21974950)
    There is nothing preventing an XO laptop from running a very trimmed down version of Windows (XP, CE, whatever) and supplying applications that can have their source code available.

    Sure there is, it's called Microsoft's desire to stop open source software. In Microsoft's eye( Sauron ) there can be no existing with OSS. Any statements of cooperation and the like are misdirection since publicly stating the goal of ending any love between corporations/businesses and OSS would harm their existing position in the market. IMO.

  • Re:Delusional (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jav1231 ( 539129 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:40PM (#21975080)
    There's a lot of unknowns here. Will this be a stripped / unlicensed version or what?
    He says, "We are working with them very closely to make a dual-boot system so that, like on an Apple, you can boot either one up."
    But Apple doesn't provide Windows for you.
    It would appear that Negroponte is in need of further funding. That would explain the Intel involvement. Their departure has been noted. Now Microsoft is on board, no doubt bringing cash. Personally, I think this is a mistake. There are millions of PC's with Windows already on them. M$ has had 2 decades to do this. They are far less concerned about getting Windows into the hands of the needy and more concerned with making sure no one runs any other OS but Windows. Get that crack into a new generation so we can ensure our business model. Good business you say? Maybe. But OLPC was supposed to be about charity, not business.

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:44PM (#21975162)
    If Microsoft can delay this project for a year or two, they'll have done a great job at killing it. No extension to the G1G1 is going to provide enough cash to keep the project going without some large contracts.

    Combine that with how Intel and Microsoft are paying original OLPC customers to go Classmate PC with Windows and you've got another project with its air supply being cut off. This project is far cheaper to kill off then say Netscape was. It's a non-profit so there's not much cash for it to to begin with. Unless someone like Google or AMD decide they'd better step in and provide the marketing money keep it going.

    Anyways, I don't see putting Windows on the XO as anything but a ploy to destroy it. That is how they address ever other threat so this one should be no different. Well, unless they buy out Negroponte and Linux and OSS is totally removed from all XO devices delivered. THAT option is the only one Bill and Microsoft would accept and still allow the project to continue. IMO.

  • by ChatHuant ( 801522 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:50PM (#21975232)
    But the entire point of the OLPC is education. A computer that shows you its code, so you can learn and create with it.

    That's a very Slashdotesque point of view and a good example of missing the forest because of one tree. You need to see the source only if you want the kid to become a programmer or maybe a sysadmin. The third world countries targeted by the OLPC have much higher and more urgent priorities. They need educated people in many other areas, not only programming. They need better, more knowledgeable farmers, workers, manufacturers, engineers, teachers, physicians, accountants, even managers and lawyers. Very, very few of the kids playing and learning now in those countries need bash or python. They do need however to learn how not to dig the outhouse near the well, how to avoid malaria, how to get more wheat out of their crops, how to start a business, how to sell their product in an increasingly globalized world. They need to learn how to access expertise already existing elsewhere, and they need to be able to do so easily. I'd argue that they even need to learn Windows, and thus get access to a whole variety of jobs where they use computers (non-programming positions, of course).

    The source code is irrelevant for all those scenarios, which I believe are the core ones for the OLPC project.
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:52PM (#21975282) Homepage Journal

    The problem with installing Windows on the OLPC is that it destroys the original purpose of the device: to educate children about how computers work. With Windows:

    • They won't be able to see the source code, to figure out how it works.
    • Or, if they are allowed to see the source code, they will be never be able to work in the OS/Office Suite/whatever market.
    • They won't learn computer science, or even proper programming practices. They'll come to believe that writing bug-free code is impossible, and that every computer crashes from time to time. They'll learn that viruses are a normal part of owning a computer.

    If Windows goes on the OLPC, the project has failed. It's that simple.

  • by delire ( 809063 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:55PM (#21975322)
    It's reasonably likely the OLPC will become a Windows-only machine in short time.

    It will start with older children assuming Windows looks more 'serious' and grown up, like the computers people in images and movies they see online use. Governments will be taught to prefer Windows on the basis of it being more 'competitive' because Windows is "more like" what people in wealthier economies use.

    The result of this is that more kids will learn to be bored by computers and computing, believing that they are opaque appliances with western graphic metaphors (what's a 'desktop' to someone that's never sat at a desk?) that seem to get slow over time. Just a small segment of the truly curious seeking alternative operating systems. Governments that bought the machines will wonder what went wrong when they see little or no innovation in the IT sector yet a massive outsourcing industry to faltering IT giants like the U.S.

    Negroponte has always wanted to work with Microsoft on his terms. Windows will certainly enjoy a long and prosperous life.

    Negroponte, you're being an idiot.
  • Re:Eww (Score:3, Insightful)

    by starfishsystems ( 834319 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:00PM (#21975404) Homepage
    A choice to drink the Kool-Aid is not much of a choice. Especially if the drinker isn't in the position to understand that it's been poisoned.
  • by xs650 ( 741277 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:08PM (#21975514)

    The version that's up and running of Windows on the XO is very fast, it's very, very successful. We're working very hard to do both," said Nicholas Negroponte, chairman of OLPC.

    Why can't the rest of us have Windows that works like that?
  • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:16PM (#21975610) Journal
    Could MS sneak a trick in whereupon when it loads Windows it sabotages something that the Linux boot needs, so when someone runs them back to back, the Linux install tanks?

    In the seven seconds of space when a nasty salesman is spreading FUD about the Linux half, even a Linux expert might not find the poison pill in time for the emotional hysterics to win the day.

    Maybe this would be a use for stray batches of Vista code.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:42PM (#21975942)
    You don't do deals with those people.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:56PM (#21976172)
    That is the KEY point that I make.

    Children OUTSIDE the usa recieve in depth educations. Even children in opressive china where they beat you every hour and eat kitten faces are far better educated than children in the usa. Yes kids, I am a Us citizen, I have a child in private school in the US because the public schools are utterly useless, yet the technology program even at the private school is a joke.

    Every single person I know that learned computers on "windows" knows far less about the computer than the guys and gals that used different OS's Even programmers on windows know very little about the computer. .NET hand holds you so badly you dont even need to know computer basics (I regularly get suprised looks when I convert hex or binary in my head from "educated experts")

    I want kids elsewhere to get smart, not more stupid like we do here in the USA..

    Hey World! if you want to know what NOT to do in education, look at the US education system. We have the stupidest degree holding people on the planet.
  • by aweraw ( 557447 ) * <aweraw@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:26PM (#21976640) Homepage Journal
    I'd argue that they even need to learn Windows

    Do they _really_ need to learn Windows, or just basic computing concepts? I'd wager that the later is far more useful than learning a specific OS.

    When you say the source code is irrelevent in all those "urgent priorities", I say that windows is also - The only requirement is that it displays graphics and text on the screen, so there's absolutly no reason I can see why they couldn't learn all those things with a non-Windows OS.
  • by Udo Schmitz ( 738216 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:38PM (#21976822) Journal
    Anyone else remembers how they turned down Steve Jobs' offer of a free Mac OS X? [macnn.com]

    "Apple offered free licenses of Mac OS X for MIT's proposed $100 laptop initiative, however, the proposal offered by Apple's CEO Steve Jobs was declined because the program was looking for open-source software [...]"

    Uhuh, yeah, right ...

  • Re:Delusional (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bobNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:57PM (#21977094) Journal
    Will this be a stripped / unlicensed version or what?

    Yep, interesting. Sugar is a lot more than just an OS.

    Microsoft wouldn't want to be seen as the loser in a competition like this, so how will Microsoft provide all the additional functionality? Bundle Works?

    They'll also need to address the malware aspect, and do so in the very limited space available on the XO. If they manage to do that, they'll also have to be careful to cripple it so it won't run on ordinary PCs. A stripped down, low cost, lightweight OS that would install on standard X86 hardware and run existing PE apps would eat Vista for breakfast.

  • by ChatHuant ( 801522 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @08:12PM (#21977290)
    Do they _really_ need to learn Windows, or just basic computing concepts?

    I'm not sure what you mean, but the discussion started with the "show source" requirement, so I'll assume you don't include everyday computer usage as a computer concept, even basic.

    Here, on Slashdot, we tend to exaggerate the importance of computer knowledge. Basic computing concepts (such as the capability to read/write a program or a script) are needed for engineers, system administrators, certainly for programmers, and a few others. But there are *many* more jobs where familiarity with Windows and Office is useful or even essential, while knowledge of computing theory and programming (even at a basic level) is not. Familiarity with Excel may for example make the difference between being hired for a secretarial position or not. So yes, pragmatically speaking, learning how to *use* (not program) Windows could be more useful for a poor 3rd world kid than getting source code access.

    The only requirement is that it displays graphics and text on the screen, so there's absolutly no reason I can see why they couldn't learn all those things with a non-Windows OS

    Agreed - but that's a different issue. My argument was not OS related; I was saying that the usefulness of the OLPC is not given by the capability to see the source code.
  • Re:Delusional (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fatwilbur ( 1098563 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @09:38PM (#21978314)
    Ahh, the world of slashdot is full of brilliant academics so I would hope you can understand this point: Microsoft is a Business. An what does this mean? Their obligations are to shareholders, not what you or I think is best. In that regard, they MUST do everything they can to ensure their flagship product, Windows, maintains domination of the marketplace.

    I think if you were intelligent at all, you would do the exact same things as current MS management if you were in their shoes. You may think it's underhanded, but it's in Microsoft's best interests so that is all that matters.

    It would be interesting to know how many people on here that bitch about MS actual hold mutual funds with significant positions in Microsoft. I bet it would be a lot larger than you think...

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission