Microsoft announced this week that the first Windows-based XO laptop pilot program is ready to commence. The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) XO laptop was designed with Linux in mind. But, when the notebook started to trickle into the market in developing nations around the world, Microsoft decided to work with OLPC to get Windows XP running on the devices.
The pilot program will be carried out under the auspices of the government of Peru, though its exact location and scale have not yet been determined. Microsoft expects the program to run over the next nine months with a suite of Microsoft applications bundled on the laptops, including Microsoft Office 2003 Standard and Learning Essentials 1.0 for Microsoft Office.
The fact that a Microsoft-powered XO is apparently ready for use represents rapid progress for the software giant. In May, the OLPC and Microsoft announced that Windows would be made available to the OLPC for use on the XO laptop. In July, a customized version of Windows XP for the XO hit the release-to-manufacturing milestone. Due to the low-end, inexpensive hardware involved, Microsoft had to significantly tweak Windows XP for the project.
The OLPC XO notebook has had more than its share of troubles since it was announced. The XO was first touted as a $100 laptop, yet by the time the laptop was ready for the world, its price was nearly double the original target, coming in at $188. The OLPC Foundation hopes that the cost of the notebook will come down further as more of the systems are ordered. Analyst firm Gartner, however, says the $100 laptop is still years away from reality.
Even at the still relatively low price, OLPC has had difficulties producing enough of the netbooks. Buyers in the US who participated in the holiday 2007 Give One Get One promotion with the OLPC had trouble getting their computers that year, which led to angry customers. The G1G1 promotion was recently revived, this time with Amazon handling distribution.
Price increases and early production woes aren't the only issue the OLPC had to deal with. Intel and the OLPC started as partners, but Intel later decided to go its own way and set loose the Intel Classmate PC in the same markets the XO was targeting. So far, the Classmate PC appears to be coming out on top. Intel scored a 500,000-unit contract from the government of Portugal and intends to sell the Classmate to the public at a price in the $250 to $350 range.
Intel's Classmate can run either Windows XP or Linux, and now the XO can as well. With OLPC and Microsoft finally getting XP going on the XO, having the familiar OS available may help OLPC better compete with not only the Classmate, but with other netbooks.
Source: Ars Technica