The One Laptop Per Child project is about to find out whether Microsoft is the solution to its problems in spreading inexpensive portable computers to schoolchildren.
Microsoft and the laptop organization announced Thursday
that the nonprofit's green-and-white "XO" computers now
can run Windows in addition to their homegrown interface,
which is built on the open Linux operating system.
Nicholas Negroponte, the founder of the laptop project -
which aims to produce $100 computers but now sells them
at $188 - acknowledged that having Windows as an option
could reassure education ministers who have hesitated to
buy XOs with its new interface, called Sugar. Sugar was
designed only to work with a free Linux operating system
that engineers from Red Hat. Eventually, the goal will be
to develop versions of the laptop to run both Linux and
Windows, leaving the user to decide which operating
system to run when the machine boots up, Negroponte said.
Negroponte had hoped to sell several million laptops by
now; instead he has gotten about 600,000 orders.
Beginning in limited runs next month, XO buyers will have
the option of computers loaded with or without Windows.
Versions with Windows will cost $18 to $20 more.
Not long after Negroponte first dreamed up the idea of
seeding the developing world with $100 laptops for
education, he talked with Microsoft about using a version
of Windows on the machines. That seemed to vanish before
long, as Microsoft's Bill Gates and a close partner,
Intel Chairman Craig Barrett, publicly dismissed the XOs'
scaled-back processing power and small screen.