Nicholas Negroponte, the man behind the One Laptop Per Child project, says future OLPCs may get the Windows operating system:
But Bender already has new plans: to launch an independent effort to further the development of the XOs' homegrown software, known as Sugar, and get it to run on Linux computers other than XOs. "Sugar is in a narrow place and it is ripe to be unleashed," he wrote in an e-mail exchange.
Sugar relies heavily on icons and other graphical features and avoids Windows' files-and-folders format. That was done to be intuitive to children in developing countries who have never encountered a PC, but some governments have hesitated to invest in laptops without Windows. Some competing low-cost laptops being billed as educational tools, such as the Classmate PC developed by Intel Corp., do run Windows.
For about a year, however, Microsoft has been working to get a slimmed-down version of Windows to run on XO laptops. As a result, Negroponte said Tuesday that he expects XOs to soon have a "dual-boot" option, meaning users would be able to run Windows or Sugar.
One current hang-up is whether the necessary hardware would add $7 to $12 to an XO's cost, taking the project even further away from its eventual goal of producing the machines for less than $100. Eventually, Negroponte added, Windows might be the sole operating system, and Sugar would be educational software running on top of it.
That might disappoint advocates of open-source software who helped bankroll OLPC and cheered the challenge it represented to Microsoft's dominance. Unlike proprietary software like Windows, open-source applications are developed by a community of programmers and the underlying code is freely shared.
Wayan Vota, whose OLPC News blog reported Bender's departure Monday, said he feared Sugar would get neglected on XOs that run Windows. "Which do you think Microsoft is going to put its marketing muscle behind?" he said.