No dual-boot OLPC is in the works, says Microsoft

Is Microsoft working on building a laptop for the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) program? Yes, but the intended machine will run Windows XP only, rather than both Windows XP and Linux, Microsoft officials said today, refuting an earlier report that made the waves on Slashdot.

Microsoft officials today denied published reports that it is collaborating with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program to build a dual-boot Windows XP/Linux laptop. However, it did say progress continues toward a Windows XP-only laptop for the same organization, with plans to do limited field testing on the Windows machine this month.

When asked by BetaNews to elaborate on reports of a dual-boot laptop which appeared in several other publications this week, a Microsoft spokesperson acknowledged that the company has looked into that possibility, but added that Microsoft has decided not to go ahead with a dual-boot version of the OX laptop, the current result of the OLPC's long-time mission to produce low-cost laptops for children.

Accounts in some other publications -- one of which was Slashdotted -- had quoted Nicholas Negroponte as saying that OLPC are collaborating on a laptop that will boot up into either Linux or Windows XP.

In denying reports about the dual-boot laptop, Microsoft also sent BetaNews the following written statement late yesterday:

While we have investigated the possibility in the past, Microsoft is not developing dual-boot Windows XP support for the 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.

Also in December, CNET blogger Ina Fried quoted James Utzschneider, the general manager of Microsoft's emerging market unit, as saying that although about 40 Microsoft employees and contractors are working on Microsoft's effort to put Windows XP on the XO laptop, the company still isn't sure that it will be able to overcome the technical hurdles.

The main barrier is that the XO has only 1 GB of built-in memory and no hard drive, Utzschneider reportedly said. Accordingly, Microsoft has been exploring the idea of building Windows and Office on a 2 GB add-in card, but this would require writing new BIOS software for booting directly from the SD card.

In the written announcement issued on December 5, Microsoft said it plans to publish formal guidelines early in 2008 that will help flash-based device makers design machines enable "a high-quality Windows experience."

If this kind of experience becomes a reality, "the Windows XP for the XO could be available as early as the second half of 2008," according to the company's earlier statement.

In a current OLPC program called Give One Get One, two XO laptops can be purchased for about $400. The buyer keeps one laptop, while the other is donated.

But the 2008 calendar year is already turning out to be a turbulent one for the OLPC. In early January, Mary Lou Jepsen, the organizations's CTO, left the OLPC to start a "spin-out" called Pixel Qi.

"Pixel Qi is currently pursuing the $75 laptop, while also aiming to bring sunlight readable, low-cost and low-power machines into mainstream laptops, cellphones and digital cameras," according to information on Pixel Qi's Web site.

"Spinning out from OLPC enables the development of a new machine, beyond the XO, while leveraging a larger market for new technologies, beyond just the OLPC."

Also near the start of this year, Intel stepped down from the OLPC's board of directors, and reports surfaced that a Nigerian company is suing the OLPC over a claimed patent violation.

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