Microsoft to finally give software for low-cost laptops

May 16th, 2008 - 7:02 pm ICT by admin  

New York, May 16 (IANS) After a long dispute, Microsoft has agreed to offer Windows for the computers of ‘One Laptop Per Child’ (OLPC) educational project for children in developing nations. The alliance between Microsoft and OLPC , a non-profit association, was announced Thursday, reports The New York Times.

The software giant had resisted joining the project because the low-cost XO laptops in question used the Linux operating system, an open source alternative to Windows.

The small, sturdy XO laptops have been hailed for their innovative design. But they are sold mainly to governments and education ministries, and initial sales were slow, partly because officials were reluctant to buy machines that did not run Windows, the dominant operating system in the world.

“The people who buy the machines are not the children who use them, but government officials in most cases,” Nicholas Negroponte, founder of OLPC group and MIT professor, was quoted as saying by the Times. “And those people are much more comfortable with Windows.”

The XO laptop weighs 3.2 pounds and comes with a video camera, microphone, game-pad controller and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration. The laptop now costs about $200 each and the project’s goal is to eventually bring the price down to about $100.

About 600,000 have been ordered since late last year, with Peru, Uruguay and Mexico making the largest commitments.

Two years ago, the Indian ministry of education dismissed the project’s laptop as “pedagogically suspect”, arguing that classrooms and teachers are a priority in the country. But some XO laptops are unofficially finding their way into Indian homes and schools.

The first of the project’s child-friendly XO laptops running Windows XP will be tested next month in four or five countries and they would be available by September.

The pact with Microsoft - which will add a $3 cost per machine - is not binding on OLPC. The Linux version will still be available, and the group will encourage outside software developers to create a version of the project’s educational software, called Sugar, that will run on Windows.

Taking a cue from OLPC, others are also trying to design inexpensive laptops for children in poorer nations, notably Intel with its Classmate PC, which runs Windows and is $400 or less, the NYT reported.

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