XP on OLPC - a contrarian view

Robert Myers rmyers7 at mindspring.com
Fri May 16 12:27:55 EDT 2008

There's a lot of discussion about whether OLPC is an education project, 
or a laptop project. Many folks here think that recent developments show 
that the balance is tipped to the latter rather than the former.

It's neither. It's a _sales_ project. If people don't buy them, it 
doesn't matter how pure our hearts are.

The folks that are buying them, Ministries of Education, governments, 
charities all have their own agendas. They do not necessarily line up 
with the agendas of our real customers - children and educators, or our 
own. If we have to give them some of what they want, so that we can get 
some of what we want to to the children, it's a fact of life.

Selling constructionism is hard. The theory is attractive, but the data 
is _not_ compelling. The buyers are probably not convinced going in that 
it's something they want or need. OLPC would probably have an easier 
time selling $100 Apple ][ clones with drill and practice software than 
the XO as it stands. If the buyers demand a machine that can run 
Windows, tell them that the XO can run Windows.

Look at the reaction of the general press to the announcement. It's 
overwhelmingly favorable. To outsiders this looks like the feature that 
can put the XO over.

So put XP on as a dual boot. It won't fit in the flash, so buyers for 
the foreseeable future will still get Linux, Sugar, and all the OLPC 
activities. The Windows guys are talking about a 2G SD card to put XP on 
for that $7 hardware point. That won't fly. I had an Win98 machine with 
specs similar to an XO. It had a 8Gb drive.

The buyer gets to tick Windows off his must have list. OLPC sells a 
machine with XP on a card, a crippled and storage limited XP that still 
doesn't run current first world productivity applications well. XOs get 
out, still loaded with Sugar. Children get them. OLPC gets revenue that 
can help its educational mission. What have we lost but some innocence?

That being said, I believe Bill G is a prime example of 'Daniel 
Plainview' capitalism -- it's not enough for him to win, everyone else 
has to lose. So OLPC has to be careful.


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