As Promised, OLPC's XO Gets Windows XP

  • MORE

As Nicholas Negroponte told us a few months back, One Laptop Per Child's (OLPC) XO laptop will be getting a Microsoft Windows XP operating system. It will not, however, completely replace the Sugar Linux OS that has been on the systems to date.

A joint press release from Microsoft and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) revealed that trials of the XO running Windows are planned to begin as soon as in June in select emerging markets. The release also mentioned that the intent is to create a version of the XO laptop that provides the ability to host both Windows and Linux operating systems. Finally, a Sugar/Windows XP Boot Camp?!

Then again, what's the use of having the Sugar interface if XP will be able to support the laptop’s e-book reading mode, standard Wi-Fi networking, camera, writing pad, and custom keys as well as power-saving and other features of the XO hardware? Will people see the use in using Sugar if they can just get all the applications that were built for the original system in a Microsoft OS? Perhaps a dual boot is the only solution for those that were resistant to the open-Sugar OS. Maybe Sugar is like those force-fed vegetables sitting on your plate; you don't think you like them, but you don't know until you try them.

Next week we're heading up to Cambridge to get some hands-on time with the new system. Stay tuned for our initial impressions.

Update: Those readers that are interested in upgrading their XO, purchased in Give 1, Get 1, to XP will have to be patient. According to OLPC Founder Nicholas Negroponte, " we are working on the dual boot and until such a time it will not be possible for users to upgrade their XO's. This is a combination of of the flexibility of changing the firmware and business decisions to be made by Microsoft."


Add a comment
  • Jeff Meunier, happy XO owner Says:

    Many of you are are judging this computer as though the designers designed it for you and for the software that you want to use, which is not remotely correct. There's an enormous difference between someone in the DEVELOPED world surfing the net, watching flash videos, and playing The Sims, and a child in the DEVELOPING world who has never used a computer before, does not have an Internet connection, does not speak English, and will probably never have the opportunity to attend a university and subsequently work as a corporate drone, sitting in a cubicle formatting expense reports on a computer running MS Windows. The XO and Sugar are about letting children explore, invent, express themselves, and learn about computers, mathematics, geometry, art, music, and everything else the XO and Sugar can teach them, from the moment they first turn it on, without having to install or configure a thing. This is not about corporate training, it's about education. This is why Microsoft does not belong here. Microsoft will destroy OLPC.

  • logicjoe Says:

    Your doing your grandson a great disservice if you think xp is an upgrade, its not its a virus.

  • Dwaine Says:

    I don't get it. Why was I directed to a blog? Blogs are nothing but a waste of time!

    How do I upgrade?

    When I had a choice between a $15 slide rule and a $80 calculator, I chose the calculator.
    When I had a choice between drugs-alcohol and health$ I chose health$.
    When I had a choice between smoking and not, I chose health$.
    When I had a choice between coffee and tee, I chose neither$.
    When I had a choice between apt w/dishwasher or not, I chose with.
    When I had a choice between marriage or playboy (I missed the AIDs era.)
    When I had a choice between house and condo, I chose house.
    When I had a choice between 8track and cassette, I chose cassette.
    When I had a choice between reel2reel and cassette, I chose cassette.
    When I had a choice between cassette and CD, I chose CD.
    When I had a choice between Atari and Commodore, I chose Commodore.
    When I had a choice between VHS and Beta, I chose VHS.
    When I had a choice between VHS and DVD, I chose DVD.
    When I had a choice between IBM and Apple, I chose IBM.
    When I had a choice between DOS and MS DOS, I chose MS.
    When I had a choice between MS Word and Word Prefect, I chose Word.
    When I had a choice between Lotus123 and MS Excel, I chose Excel.
    When I had a choice between AT&T and MCI, I chose MCI.
    When I had a choice between SUV's and Air Bags, I chose Air Bags.
    When I had a choice between Intuit and H&R Block, I chose software.
    When I had a choice between Ipod and MP3, I chose Ipod.
    When I had a choice between TIVO and commercials, I chose TIVO.
    When I had a choice between HD-DTV and not, I chose who cares.
    When I had a choice between Blu-Ray and HD, I chose who cares.
    When I had a choice between cell phones and pda's, I'm still holding out for a cheap version of both with many more functions (the iphone is getting close).
    When I had a choice between Bush and Gore, you can't blame me.
    Now my grandson wants a choice between his G1G1 and my laptop, he's only five, but hooked on windows. There's many losers and winners in our choices. Along with many other reasonable people, we've put a lot of good companies out of business. And sometimes, some very good choices: I'm glad we chose Britain over Germany about 65 years ago.

    I repeat, how do I upgrade?

  • Randal Leavitt Says:

    Well, that does it for me - Im outta here! As an Open Source initiative I thought this OLPC project had some potential to teach the world about freedom. But freedom is a scary topic, and we wouldnt want the little tykes to be worried about their future, would we? So we will instead train them to be good corporate robots and everyone will be happy, secure, predictable, low-paid, and bored with their out-of-date virus collectors keeping their doors open. As for me - well Im climbing back into my nuclear powered transhuman dreamscape generator and heading for the bowels of Jupiter. Too-da-looooo.......

  • Don Mac Brown Says:

    Please let those of us who aren't Geeks enjoy Windows XP. The idea is to reach the most children, not the most Geeks.

  • Jimbo Says:

    There are some people here who seem to think using Windows XP is a good idea. There are others who seem to think that kids need to learn Windows XP. And then there are some very strong Linux people here who seem to think Linux is the only way to freedom.

    Question to all of you: WHY?

    Windows XP is now reaching End Of Life- MS will refuse to support it shortly. WHY on Earth would you make a new machine and ship with a DEAD operating system??? IF MS wants there OS on it, then let them fix Vista. Fix it up enough that the OLPC can run it efficiently. If you are going to use the excuse that kids need to learn Windows, then let them learn a CURRENT version, NOT an obsolete version.

    For the Linux Camp: What is wrong with you? Linux is about choice, the freedom for me to CHOOSE weather or not I like software, do I prefer SeaMonkey or Firefox? Do I prefer SuSE or Ubuntu? Linux or Windows? Everyone will have there preference, its not our place in the Linux community to decide that for others.

    I personally do not feel that Windows was an appropriate choice of Operating Systems to fill the scope of the project. But obviously there was some pressure from those who bought the machines. I am disappointed that it happened, and even more so that the $100 goal was never reached. With Windows I doubt it ever will be reached now. But there must be some market for it, or it would not have happened.

  • miraclman Says:

    So easy to criticize So hard to initiate a original idea like olpc. I'm still humbled by the ambition of it. Who am I to judge the ultimate outcome.

  • Stephen Says:

    The XO is pretty much unusable in the current state. This isn't an issue of Linux vs MS either. It is about getting a usable OS on the XO that makes it possible to enjoy all the features. I struggle to use the XO and yet I've got over a decade of experience on Unix sysadmin! This is nuts! Flash doesn't work, web browsing is painfuly slow, video support takes some serious hacking. This is not how things should be.

    I have an Asus EEE running Linux - this is what the Linux experience should be like on the XO. Everything just works and hence I would never dream of putting XP on an Asus EEE. As for the XO, where can I order my copy of XP?

  • Terris Linenbach Says:

    The XO laptop is completely unusable in its current form. How many of you out there know about the 3 finger salute when the mousepad goes haywire?


    Right. You don't have an XO. Pray tell, have you tried to run Flash apps on it? As I thought.

    Desktop Linux is still awful. I can only hope that XP makes my child's green XO paperweight more useful than so much toxic waste.

  • Denis Lopez Says:

    I was promoving and supporting an educational project XO: An alternative for children who might have a future in the free world, a world where we (developing countries) were not only technology consumers.

    We need acces to the information, to a freedom education ... XO+Window$ will be another use bussiness for Micro$oft. If Microsoft will be help why they or their foundation "Linda & Bill Gates Foundation" support with money to this project. The XO porject does not need Microsoft privative license.

    Education without Freedom? It Does not an educational project, is a big business only, it's bad for everybody to wants competion or free (freedom) knowledge.

    Paying $ 3 in an OX is pay for the "first dose" of technological dependency (like a drug dose) is paying for be an slave in the future. $ 0 is too expensy. Freedom is not sold, but here, in my country, there are many governments that not only delivered the freedom, some of they could be pay for leave it.

    I would like to have hope with a this propose, but I live in a country that has taught me, unfortunately, that without scrupulous money moves all.

    Anyway, I am an optimistic guy and we will have another project that supports those who want a free and better world. We are not only good for buy things, we are good too as human beings than have a lot of things to share, not only money.

  • Merl Says:

    I am surprised there are so many negative people who think windows is a bad idea.
    Are they forgetting who this was designed for? The kids dam it! Don't you think
    they should learn windows also, After all the business woorld requires windows skill
    in most industries.

    As for selling out, Try spending time trying to convince some foriegn politicians
    itwould be a good idea to educate their children. Keep it up Mr N.

    NowI feel better

  • Madeline Althoff Says:

    So sad. I was inspired by this project--until I read this. :(

    (A note regarding what wvbailey said about the keyboard being small: um, you seem to forget that it's intended for children.)

  • g andrews Says:

    Fantastic: thousands more computers to add to the global botnet of Windows machines plagued by malware, in the hands of people least-equipped to handle such problems. >:-P

  • MoOnShIn3 Says:

    "we are working on the dual boot and until such a time it will not be possible for users to upgrade their XO’s"
    huh, they mean downgrade?

  • wvbailey Says:

    The keystone of the OLPC mission was a $100 laptop. The OLPC design group failed: they shipped a $180 laptop. Software is not the root of the turmoil at the OLPC foundation, it's that Negroponti et. al allowed feature-creep. What they shipped us is a mechanically-bloated machine with fancy swiveling screen, too many buttons, a too-fancy touch pad (actually two of them), a built-in camera, one or two too many USB ports (anyone ever heard of a port expander?), all of which is unnecessary for learning. And the keyboard is too small (my wife's instant comment upon trying it -- "This is no good for learning touch-typing"). Only when someone finally creates a true $100 laptop with a touch-typeable keyboard will we see the mission succeed. The software is a secondary issue, not the key issue.

  • Jeremy Baker Says:

    Here is a link to get recent information from a principle player (Walter Bender) on the matter of free software and education.

  • Jeremy Baker Says:

    Thinking about the project's evolution and mission, the only "value" that I see that MS can bringing to the XO project is a list of problems: extra cost, extra weight, loss of internal space used to increase memory for an OS -- space that isn't being used to expand a user's memory needs, buggs with expensive and slow support (if at all, other than self-help forums that Third World people/children will find impossible to use), displacement of the use of the open source features and hence the slowing of the development of open source applications -- derived by those people who understand how it works by having used it, etc.

    Microsoft, by implementing their to-be-discontinued XP OS within the XO (and its future generations), has made an extremely cost effective, and fantastic choice, to market their name brand across the globe and into the minds of million's of people around the world, under the guise of "helping" the poor...

    Microsoft's implementation of the XP OS into the XO is nothing more than a refined form of modern corporate advertising, which ultimately is aimed to benefit the MS bottom line, profits, by systematically training tomorrow's consumers to become familiar with their products, a technique I believe that is called market branding, or something.

    Nicholas should be avoided by the Open Source community when any future projects evolve, for jumping the fence into the world of corporate profiteering during the evolution of an Open Source project. He could have gone corporate with another project, and kept his philosophic continuity, Open Source respect, and honor. In a way he has played with evil magic by invoking a mission statement to actualize the generous charity that open source designers, and supporters, have invested into the implementation of XO, to bring it to the level of success that it enjoys, only to find that it has become a medium to deliver the Microsoft name brand to an otherwise unreachable population of multiple millions of potential customers in developing countries.

    Future Open Source projects should pick better leaders, vetting out people who can weather the politics and temptations of corporate profit mongers... It seems we need a Human Resource Open Source Project to grow a legal team that will stay true to their guns.

    I'd say that the same mission still exists, that today's XO is tomorrow's TRS-80 that will be displaced by tomorrow's next Open Source project. Start the project from scratch. It is likely that future complaints will arise from this marriage, yielding tomorrow's choices when an NGO decides to buy a Field PC to help a community develop. It's inevitable that Field Workers will find that their dual system diverts limited funds and/or time so as to teach students how to use two redundant systems and applications, arguing to students why they need to use an application the student would rather not use... When NGOs need to buy newer systems (when their old MS OS isn't supported), the NGO will need to invest time to retrain everyone to relearn how it operates, or that they will have to cough up another $10 bucks per unit (every so often) when MS offers their latest OS, or when the limited flash memory slowly disappears to offer space for the latest MS patch to correct another discovered bug, or to cough up more cash to trash/dispose of a perfectly useful machine to buy the newer version that has the supported of MS, ... ugh. Because of the economic nature of NGO missions, an OS, that requires expensive funds to maintain it, will eventually become too expensive to use, but time will tell, and some people need to learn by making mistakes...

    Open Source projects are challenging and require a difficult set of problems to solve, but the benefits are worth the work. The last thing we (developed nations) should be doing to a developing community, where people are using tradition subsistence methods of living and are heavily reliant on re-use (see the film: The God's Must Be Crazy for a humorous look at the issue), is to teach these people to become throw-away consumers. For MS, their business idea is that we, consumers, are supposed to buy a new product to replace their older product that is no longer supported, and to trash/recycle (at a cost when the infrastructure exists) a perfectly good machine. Open Source projects can truly keep legacy machines working and functioning, being useful and used, and out of the trash cycle.

    I like MS and use it. I also study Open Source stuff, but this move by MS and the XO project is just awful, its just greed pretending to be charity. MS could have given XO a chunk of cash, no strings attached, if it wanted to help the project.

    I wasted my time promoting this XO project, reading and researching into it, broadcasting its mission to potential investors. I wanted to help make the idea work, an Open Source solution.

    At this time, I am withdrawing my research, support, and further social participation with XO.

    Aside, I spent a good deal of money on an XP operating system. In the last few months it has crashed nearly 10 times a week. Web support has burned away too many hours while I have tried to read useless information that did not help resolve my system crashes. Phone support costs nearly $50 after the second call. Actually, the number presented for phone support (technical) is a robot that claims to respond, but two calls have not produced the "text message with the actual Tech support number". After I shut down my machine, I have to reboot nearly 4 to 8 times before a restore point can be summoned, if it responds. During these last few months, the only way I get to use my system is to reinstall my OS, a few times each week so as to get to a boot up without a blue screen, a critical stop, or an application failure... Repairs, updates, error response messages, hours spent in Service and Management files, looking at drivers that I don't understand, nothing has helped. Presently, I can not use my XP OS unless I register my XP OS over the phone, because I have repaired/reinstalled my OS nearly 15 times over the last three months. This phone call takes nearly thirty minutes to actualize, so as to register my OS to keep it from locking up after 30 days. When I reinstall my XP OS (bad hard drive, newer box, what ever reason...), I will only have 30 days to use it before I have to reinstall it again, that is if I don't call a MS number to register it. Fortunately, I am only two or three texts away from understanding BSD-Linux to a point that I can rig my box, time spent not trying to fix a broken XP system.

  • muchodeo Says:

    windows is so that the kids can play games.. who needs a smart nation?

  • UI Designer Says:

    Sign me up for 2 copies. I love the XO hardware, but I HATE Sugar. Finally, an OS that will unleash the potential of the hardware.

  • Justin Says:

    Pure and simple, Nicholas Negroponte got paid. Any everyone thought OLPC was his dream, I think NOT! There's nothing this laptop would get from MS. I've see nothing pointing out what it is that Linux couldn't do, that would justify this change. Take the $ you're giving MS and develop some more applications. Or ask M$ to develop some Linux apps for you:)

  • Daniel Hembree Says:

    MS cannot coexist, at some point all the projects resources will be consumed providing support for MS and the Linux development and support will be dropped. This is MS destroying yet another good idea because their product can't stand up to real competition. I can't believe the engineers who put this product together are letting this happen, they must have all left. I'm afraid this is the end for this project, it's just become another outlet for MS.

  • RD Says:

    Yes, one wonders if existing XO's will have the opportunity to add-on the compatible WinXP version... or if it will only be provided with new 'expanded' XO's

  • Jeremy Baker Says:

    Using an open source operating system (OS) will allow a curious person/child, who wants to examine and tinker with the source code, the option of investigating how it is made and put together, so as to better understand how the OS monitors the computer's management of software and hardware resources. This knowledge in turn may invoke a child's interest to learn more about solid state electronics and/or the logical systems used to make hardware, and hence the applications that make the hardware work. Understanding how an OS is put together can also help certain types of people who make lower level computer programs which interact with high level programs.

    Using an OS, such as MS, that is off limits to investigation/tinkering, due to proprietary legal restraints, will only effect those rare individuals who are curious enough to try to understand how the machine works. Otherwise, a majority of people will only use the computer for the purpose of running its applications to achieve some personal goal (writing, entertainment, education, communication, ...). These folks will not immediately notice any difference, at first, if at all, unless they consider the bigger picture beyond their immediate need for satisfaction when they turn on a computer.

    Why should the typical person care if a system uses an operating system that is open source or proprietary? Two reasons come to my mind. Reason one, an open source OS can be attained for free, used by any person, rich or poor, and the source code is freely accessible to be examined and explored. This can have a significant economic impact when a department/company is trying to install thousands of computers, each requiring an operating system, when using limited funds to achieve a desired goal/mission. It is against the law to use, modify, or unofficially distribute proprietary software (OS), and this software may be unattainable in a decipherable form so as to learn how it works. Reason two, creative ideas spawn when people can understand how something works, and from creativity we get our new gadgets and applications that many regular people find delightful and useful. Combine the two reasons and then interpret the results. A majority of the world's population could be considered poor, or lacking the funds to afford a computer, let alone proprietary applications. If any of these poor people should have the fortune to get a computer, with an open source OS, it perfectly possible that a small fraction of individuals will try to understand how the computer works. These people will be tomorrow's engineers and developers who make applications and hardware, in what is called low level programming. When a larger group of people can look at, and understand , a problem, there is an increased potential to find a more desirable solution, so the rational goes that when more people understand how a computer works, better solutions/discoveries can be discovered and implemented at a faster rate. In order to make proprietary software proprietary, the software must be “hidden” from the public so that only a small number of people, who officially work for a company, may have the knowledge to understanding how their computer's devices/language works. These small groups of people often fail to envision the totality of any given project's set of problems, and hence we get buggy software, unstable operating systems, and hardware components that don't work, and so on and so forth... Granted, open source software has problematic issues, but the solutions do not require spending money to gain the knowledge to solve the problem, and is thus considered free, as in free thinking...
    Also keep in mind, when a proprietary company, like Microsoft, decides to stop affording the support for one of their proprietary products, such as the XP operating system, there will be no help for people who are trying to use the XP system with modern devices, let alone for bugs and other issues related to legacy devices. In contrast, with the open source systems, if there is a problem without a solution, it is due to there not being a person who understands how the computer works such that a person can design a fix for the problem, perhaps because this person grew up using a computer that used proprietary software which never allowed for their curiosity to investigate how the OS, or any other type of higher level software, worked...

  • Chuck Burgess Says:


  • John Roberts Says:

    I purchased one of these laptops for my granddaughter under the give one get one program, and would like to convert her machine to Windows as it becomes available. I would like to know how to do this conversion.

  • Steve White Says:

    I have 2 XO's from the G1G1 in fall 2007, and I found Sugar a fine OS and the applications are properly interesting. The challenge is admin. Put together an operating system that is well known, and the hardware which is lovely, and there's a chance that the vision will fly. I'm no M$ fan, and Windows on an XO is going to nullify the value that the capacity management and applications bring to the machine, but if I had a choice (and as part of the G1G1 I know I've bought a product with no support, not even if I wanted to pay for support) I'd have paid extra for dual boot.

  • ubik in space Says:

    Ok so i understand this move to peace with MS was NOT very enlightening for open source community, but hey you have to do something if your NOT getting closer to your vision.
    I'm myself long standing FOSS fan so I respect GPL versions, Linux and all that this movement gave. But You have to fallow the white rabbit To the hole if you want to get your vision from lucid dream to reality 600,000 OLPC is not enough for such good idea. AND I can't blame MS because they are getting more and more open minded. You have to respect that in the way. For ex. they opensourced their silverlight specs for Novell and their mono project. So keep an eye on MS but don't blame them for their monopolistic past. After all smart kids can always dual boot:)
    I say YES do it let the children to move forward to their dreams.

    Stanislovas Mickus

  • ChadM Says:'s a shame that the brains at MIT and the perception of intelligence at OLPC have fallen victim to the almitghty dollar....I guess that when you have a vision, it is only as strong as the wallet that provides posture.

Back to top