Microsoft Wants One Laptop Per Child System To Run Windows XP
The software maker wants OLPC to redesign its XO low-cost PC for children in developing nations.
Microsoft has asked the designers of a low-cost Linux laptop intended for children in developing nations to redesign the system so it can accommodate its Windows XP operating system.
In a move sure to provoke controversy, Microsoft wants the designers of the XO laptop, available through a non-profit initiative called One Laptop Per Child, to add a port through which the storage capacity required by Windows XP can be added to the system.
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The XO currently runs on a Red Hat Linux operating system. Making the laptop compatible with XP would give students in poor countries access to "tens of thousands of existing educational applications written for Windows," said James Utzschneider, a Microsoft general manager, in a blog post Wednesday.
Utzschneider says a shrunken version of Windows XP could potentially run on 2 Gbytes of flash memory. The XO, however, can only hold 1 Gbyte. As a result, Microsoft wants the XO's designers to add a slot through which more memory can be added via a secure digital (SD) card, Utzschneider said.
"We asked the OLPC to add a slot for an internal SD card that will provide the 2 Gbytes of extra memory," Utzschneider wrote. It was not immediately clear if the OLPC has responded to Microsoft's request.
The OLPC project was launched in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The aim is to build industry support for the production of low cost laptops for poor children on the wrong side of the so-called "digital divide."
The group's first offering, the XO, runs on the Linux operating system and an Advanced Micro Devices processor and is priced at less than $200.
Last year, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates chided the XO for its lack of functionality, insisting that the fact it requires a hand crank for power would make it difficult for children to use.
Microsoft's call for changes to the system that would add features but increase its price could provoke a backlash from OLPC purists who maintain that the XO must be produced at the lowest cost possible.
Microsoft's renewed interest in participating in OLPC might be viewed by skeptics as an admission that a rival offering for developing markets called Classmate -- which uses an Intel processor on Microsoft software -- has failed to catch on.
Virtually all major U.S. tech vendors are looking to emerging markets to drive the bulk of their sales growth in the 21st century, and are loathe to see rivals establish an early footprint.
Microsoft on Wednesday said it's planning "limited field trials" in January of an XO system running Windows XP.