[AI] What will be the effect of Microsoft joining the OLPC?
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Thu May 22 08:30:08 EDT 2008
The Hindu News Update Service
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Sci. & Tech.
What will be the effect of Microsoft joining the OLPC?
London, (GUARDIAN NEWS SERVICE)
By Charles Arthur
It will almost certainly mean that many more of the One Laptop Per Child machines will be sold - but it's hard to see it really benefit the wider population
as much as it will Microsoft.
Instead, expect a generation of developing-world children to grow up accustomed to mystifying messages such as "Your current security settings prohibit
running ActiveX controls on this page", while making it necessary to employ (or teach) a cohort of people expert in troubleshooting Windows, while also
giving malware authors the opportunity to create botnets so vast that they will make ones like Storm look like a tea-party. But each one sold will put
$3 into Microsoft's coffers, and support, financing and malware are other peoples' problems, not the company's.
The inclusion of Windows XP as an alternative operating system for the XO laptop looks like a capitulation - though one could also call it realpolitik -
by the OLPC organisers. How can you build a low-cost laptop if you include software you have to pay for, rather than the readily available free varieties?
Yet reports this week say that Nicholas Negroponte, chair of the OLPC project, had wanted to get Windows on the XO since its inception, and that this announcement
follows a meeting with Bill Gates last year at the Clinton Global Initiative. The biggest hurdle for Microsoft was accepting that the XO will be dual-boot,
with both Windows XP and the GNU/Linux operating systems available for users to choose between.
"We view it as a major opportunity for OLPC to expand and expand in a couple of ways," Negroponte said in an interview with CNet. "One is to have a broader
acceptance in the community, and the other is to have more software and software developers available." The reality though is that some countries were
demanding XP - such as Uruguay. Negroponte said that "When I talk to people and tell them we can run Windows, they are very impressed. You pass a sort
of virility test."
But is that the best way to decide what operating system to use for an educational product aimed at primary-school children? Any school administrator will
tell you that children have a remarkable habit of clicking on links that they shouldn't, and the sheer volume of malware available for XP - which will
only be mediated by XP's built-in firewall, unless antivirus companies with a charitable bent feel like joining OLPC too - makes a Third World botnet a
distinct possibility if the XP OLPC is widely used.
Until last week's announcement only 600,000 OLPC machines had been ordered, with Peru, Mexico, Rwanda, Uruguay and Cambodia among those ready for deals.
The latter two are expected to be the first to take on the XP laptops.
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