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Can Windows Save OLPC? And If Not $100, Why Not $75?

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Can Windows Save OLPC? And If Not $100, Why Not $75?

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Despite hisses and boos from the open source side of the house One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is now officially soldered at the hip to Microsoft.  

Its novel XO laptop is supposed to go to trials in a half-dozen developing countries next month fitted with XP and a student version of Office and the foundation expects to have a dual-boot Windows-Red Hat version ready by October.  

In response, disaffected former OLPC developer Ivan Krstic is starting a Sugar Labs foundation to get more open source software developed for the widget.  

Using Windows will initially add $21-$23 to XO’s cost, now $188, a hundred having proven impossible even without Microsoft. Microsoft is charging the non-profit three bucks a pop and the other $18-$20 is for hardware to support Windows, which doesn’t support the XO’s innovative Sugar interface or its built-in mesh wireless networking yet. When the dual-boot version arrives the additional cost should drop to 10 bucks.  

OLPC hasn’t even gotten to the runway let alone off the ground with a free copy of Linux on board so it’s giving people what they asked for – Windows and Windows applications.  

For Microsoft it’s a franchise-protection exercise. For OLPC it’s a matter of salvation. It’s only sold maybe 600,000 of the 150 million it hoped to move this year in part stymied by competition from Intel. The XO is of course AMD-based.  

But, having failed to deliver a $100 laptop, OLPC is now chasing a hinged book-like second-generation XO that would cost $75 and have two 16:9 screens – one of them could be a touch-sensitive multi-lingual keyboard or the two together could be used as one big screen.  

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte, who figures the screens would cost 20 bucks each, says the smaller, lighter, more energy efficient 1W XO-2 could be out in 2010 – assuming OLPC lasts that long – and will be promoted to the so-far-resistent governments of emerging countries as an e-book reader to save on the cost of textbooks. It could hold 500 books.

XO-2 is being designed by OLPC’s former CTO Mary Lou Jepsen who left to start Pixel Qi to commercialize XO features.

Before that, however, there’s supposed to be an XO-1.5 that looks like the current XO but has fewer parts and costs less to make.  

The foundation is also planning to restart its Give One, Get One program in August or September, encouraging Americans and Europeans this time to donate an XO to some poor kid somewhere. The brief program, tried in the US last year, allowed OLPC to distribute 30,000 laptops in Rwanda , Haiti and Mongolia .

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