OLPC Sugar OS takes on a life of its own, will anybody care?
The OLPC team yesterday announced plans to load Windows XP on XO Laptops in a handful of countries in June as part of a limited trial. By September, Windows could be available to any developing nation placing orders for XO Laptops. And today, Walter Bender, the former president of software for the OLPC Foundation says the unique software interface that was designed for the XO Laptop will live on. Maybe.
Here's a little background. The XO Laptop was designed to be a cheap laptop that could be distributed in developing nations to help bridge the digital divide. The original plan for the XO was to use Linux as an operating system because it's cheap, works well on low-powered devices, and because it's open source anyone could write software for it easily. A unique desktop environment called Sugar was built to make Linux more user-friendly. But many governments have been reluctant to place orders for the laptops because they don't run Windows, which is the desktop operating system used by most of the rest of the world. So the OLPC Foundation has been working with Microsoft to bring a low cost version of Windows XP to the XO.
But what does that mean for Sugar? Walter Bender says Sugar Labs, a new non-profit will develop new versions of the software. The goal is to continue developing open source software for the XO so that children in developing nations will be exposed to open source applications and ideals as they learn about computing. The question is, if Windows XP is available for just $3 more than Linux, will anybody buy the Linux/Sugar version? Yes, we know that many Download Squad readers would be more interested in the Linux models, but if the goal is to give school-age children in your country computer literacy, wouldn't you want them to use the same software that most students in countries like the US are using?