Nearly 7 years after original, a new Windows XP goes gold

On August 24, 2001, Microsoft released to manufacturing the final version of Windows XP. 6 years and 11 months later, a new version of XP has gone gold, this time for the OLPC XO computer, also known as the "$100 laptop."

Originally designed to run Linux, the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) XO laptop is targeted at developing nations and those too poor to afford proper computers for education. The device, which went on sale publicly in November for $200, features wireless connectivity, a built-in camera and a keyboard designed to change languages.

Initial deployments have begun in Afghanistan, Haiti, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru, Rwanda, and Uruguay, as well as in Birmingham, Ala. However, sales have been much lower than expected, with well under 1 million XOs ordered to date. OLPC hopes to change that with Microsoft's help.

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The Redmond company announced it was testing a version of XP on the XO last December, citing a desire to provide a "high-quality Windows experience" on OLPC's devices. But the limited field trial was far from a sure thing until May, when OLPC announced a deal with Microsoft to ship XP.

Microsoft spent a year modifying XP to ensure it would work on the XO laptops without problems. But OLPC had work to do as well, including boosting the memory and making hardware adjustments. The switch from Linux will increase the production costs of the XO from $188 to a little over $200. XP itself will cost $3 per each XO shipped.

One of the reasons for offering the low-cost laptop with a slimmed down edition of XP is that buyers were hesitant to adopt the Linux version running software known as "Sugar." Sugar operates with a special interface that utilizes symbols instead of words, making the ability to read not a requirement for use.

But while Sugar may work well in small African villages, more developed countries and school systems who signed on as early buyers wanted something similar to a full-fledged computing environment. With XP on the XO, students can learn the basics and become familiar with Windows and Office, which will help them later in life.

There are plans to release a dual-boot version of the XO, with both Linux and Windows, although no specific timeframe has been set.

"There seems to be more and more momentum around the idea of getting low cost laptops into the hands of children to transform education, and that is a good thing," remarked Microsoft's James Utzschneider in a blog posting. "Windows on the XO looks like it is on track for availability in these types of national educational PC deals in September."

Existing XO buyers, who took part in the November sale, will not receive Windows. Although Microsoft didn't specify why, it's likely due to the different hardware and additional memory required by XP.

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