Report: OLPC may eventually switch from Linux to Windows XP (computerworld)

What? Begin ranting in 5, 4, 3 …

After all of the posturing over open source being the right choice for the OLPC, after shedding a “closed source BIOS” for the very poorly adopted OpenFirmware, after ASUS proved that you can sell a crapton of mini-notebooks to people using Linux to bring prices down …

After all that, OLPC considers dumping Linux for the more expensive and resource intensive Windows XP?

I am so glad to be an EeePC user right now. This just makes the little libertarian in me scream with joy, since the free market has apparently done something that OLPC can’t … make Linux a good option for the average computer user.

Is OLPC blaming it’s poor sales on Linux to mask other problems in the organization? Could the changing prices or poor system performance be to blame for a slow adoption? How is Linux slowing OLPC adoption while ASUS uses it to browbeat Microsoft into extending Windows XP Home licenses through 2010?

There are places where the OLPC beats the EeePC (surviving in harsh environments, wireless mesh networking, charging via alternate power sources). But look at where ASUS did things right on the EeePC to make it attractive for adoption …

  • the open source software is there to add functionality and customize the interface without adding cost
  • the closed source BIOS the OLPC developers rejected is much faster to load the OS than the OLPC, and makes it possible to switch OS with anything on the market (Windows XP has to be modified to load on OpenFirmware)
  • ASUS competely passed on the “Classmate” concept PC to make something that better fit their needs using what Intel was selling for scrap in the embedded market. The 910GME chipset isn’t exactly cutting edge, and 900MHz processors are even hard to find in junkyards.

Negroponte may have a point about open source zealots, but only when it comes to making platform design choices. Open source isn’t a bad model, as long as it’s used in the right application. Don’t bring a knife to an intercontinental ballistic missile fight … unless it’s a Swiss Army knife and you’re MacGyver …

The next time my Mom comes to town I’m going to help her pick out and configure her ASUS EeePC. My mom, who draws a Social Security check, will be an EeePC user … the Linux version. Figure that one out,  Negroponte.


  1. Windows just doesn’t make sense on the OLPC XO laptop. It’s too resource hungry. I’ve been playing with my XO and following the news and development forums since I got it. It’s been really interesting to me to watch the laptop/software/teaching plan hit reality. The Sugar interface has a lot of promise, but of course some of the ideas and theories about how people will interact with it don’t match up with how things turn out to work in the real world. It’s easy for developers to get disillusioned when that happens, but I hope they will stick with it and keep trying to write great software and bring it to kids in the developing world.

    It’s been great to read about the pilot program in Nepal, where volunteers are heavily customizing the software in coordination with the teachers and doing a lot of work to make the program successful.

    I think the Eee PC is fantastic. My techie mother and not-very-techie sister both have one now, and they love them. I never thought I’d hear my sister say that she likes Linux. The Asus folks have done a great job.

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