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OLPC and Microsoft punt Windows-only XO laptop

Odd couple shack up

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Microsoft and the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation have confirmed that the XO laptop will soon be available as Windows-loaded machines.

They will be sold in five or six countries (Microsoft hasn’t said which ones) starting in June, with a broader release penciled in for August or September this year.

The announcement follows last month’s email from the OLPC project founder Nicholas Negroponte. He said at the time that the group had reached an agreement with the software giant to adapt the distinctive green and white XO laptop to run the Windows operating system.

The XO laptops, which come with a $188 price tag, have been designed to save the children of developing countries from a world without technology, although take up has so far been somewhat sluggish.

Negroponte has also called for the development of a dual-boot XO laptop with both Linux and Windows to give the world's poorest school kids the widest range of choice, but so far, Microsoft’s not really playing ball.

The firm said yesterday that the initial, limited run of XOs will ship as Windows-only machines. Meanwhile, the OLPC group will work with third parties to port its user interface, called Sugar, to Windows.

Negroponte, who has been keen to justify the group’s new tie-in with Microsoft, has stressed that running Red Hat’s Linux distribution on the machines seriously limited their credibility among governments and companies reluctant to invest in a non-Windows system.

Comments like that have caused serious internal wrangles and a number of high-profile resignations at the OLPC foundation in recent months.

Walter Bender was the group's third high-profile casualty when he walked out of the organisation in April. Since December it has also lost chief technology officer Mary Lou Jepsen and top security architect Ivan Krstic.

Negroponte insisted as recently as last month that the group’s decision to climb into bed with Microsoft - a move viewed by many commentators as an odd coupling - would not lead to the foundation abandoning its open source commitments. ®

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