The XO Gets XP

It's official: The One Laptop Per Child's XO notebook is going to ship with <a href="" target="_blank">both Windows XP and its own custom Linux distribution</a>.&nbsp; Mixed feelings abound, mine included.</p>

Serdar Yegulalp, Contributor

May 16, 2008

2 Min Read

It's official: The One Laptop Per Child's XO notebook is going to ship with both Windows XP and its own custom Linux distribution.  Mixed feelings abound, mine included.

I'm actually not terribly surprised this might happen.  After the new edition of the Asus Eee was promised in both Linux and Windows iterations, there was broad speculation that Microsoft would continue to use XP to get a foot in the door of the new low-cost PC market.  They've managed to get Windows into most every other sector of the market, from smartphones to servers; why not this, too?

Much has been made about how this may well be a positive thing, and I can cite three reasons off the top of my head.  a) It provides a choice of platforms for those who want the choice; b) it lets people in developing countries get a leg up on Windows, which is still immensely popular worldwide no matter how you cut it; and c) Microsoft is probably going to lose money on this deal upfront, since they're licensing copies of XP at a mere $3 a pop or so.  (This last is a plus for those who want to see Microsoft go down the tubes.)

As far as losing money upfront goes, this is nothing Microsoft hasn't endured before in other forms.  I've long been of the feeling that they tolerated a certain degree of piracy to allow Windows to be spread around, and to create an incentive for people to shell out for a full copy -- or buy a new PC with a legit copy of Windows preloaded.  Either way, it's money back in Microsoft's pocket in the long run, and -- more important -- that many more people using Windows and becoming dependent on it.

My biggest question is how any of this will affect the continued development of the XO's custom Linux distribution, which was specifically designed to be useful for children and those who are not already computer-literate.  I hope having Windows as one of the default choices won't mean development of the Linux side of the XO gets short shrift.  Perhaps this will spur the creation of other XO-centric Linux editions, knowing that competition for that space exists in the form of Microsoft itself now.

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Serdar Yegulalp


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