Microsoft has released to the OLPC project the specially tweaked version of Windows XP that will be offered on the XO notebook. The new version of the machine should be available in September, according to James Utzschneider, General Manager of Marketing and Communications for the Unlimited Potential Group.
After a great deal of "are they, aren't they?" rumor and negotiation, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project have finally agreed a deal with Microsoft to put Windows XP on the low-cost notebooks. As a result, starting from next month a Windows version of the XO machine will be available in five or six countries, with a large scale release following in August or September. However, unlike early rumors, the XO will not - at least initially - be able to dual-boot between Windows or the original Linux-based OS.
History, it seems, repeats itself with the OLPC project. Shortly after founder Nicholas Negroponte announced a dual-boot Linux/Windows XP version was being developed with Microsoft, including possible support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft have themselves debunked the story and denied their involvement:
"While we have investigated the possibility in the past, Microsoft is not developing dual-boot Windows XP support for One Laptop Per Child’s XO laptop. As we announced in December, Microsoft plans to publish formal design guidelines early this year that will assist flash-based device manufacturers in designing machines that enable a high-quality Windows experience. Our current goal remains to provide a high-quality Windows experience on the XO device.
In addition, there will be limited field trials in January 2008 of Windows XP for One Laptop Per Child's XO laptop. Microsoft recommends contacting the company directly for any further updates" Microsoft statement
After the surprise withdrawal of Intel from the OLPC board (taking their money, technical support, potential chip supply and order-poaching salespeople home with them), news comes from the Negroponte camp that they've been working on adding dual-boot Linux and Windows XP to the laptop.
OLPC have restarted their Give One, Get One scheme, which allows buyers to purchase an XO laptop for themselves while at the same time donating one to a child in the developing world. In fact, two options are available: $199 simply donates an XO, while the full scheme is $399. OLPC have partnered with Amazon to process the orders; in the US, XO laptops will begin shipping in 30 days.
After Microsoft and the OLPC project made their OS deal official, we all knew Windows XP was going to end up on the XO-1 notebook. Laptop Mag scored an invite to check out the system, which will begin shipping with XP as a dual-boot option in September. XP runs from a separate SD card hidden behind the screen, and currently the XO-1's own internal 1GB of flash memory is not accessible. Start-up speeds are lower than promised, too; Laptop Mag have a video of it in action, but all you really need to know is that where Microsoft promised 50 seconds, it actually took 1 minute 24 seconds.
With all the boardroom shuffling, accusations of conflicted interest and mysterious OS rumors, it's easy to forget that the OLPC project is actually producing working laptops. In fact, the XO-1 went on sale last November, as part of a "Give One, Get One" scheme in which North American buyers purchased two of the devices, one for themselves and the other to be donated to needy children. Reg Hardware's Brian Hurley pre-ordered an XO-1 and had it delivered a few weeks ago, and has put together an impressively comprehensive review of the bright green device the makers would have us believe can change the world.