it’s not just about UI

links / OLPC
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Over the past 24hrs the “Windows VS Linux on XOs” debate has picked up [1][2][3], with CNet posting a good article that’s picked up a decent amount of interesting comments. The post concludes, from a child’s point of view, they’re probably going to enjoy an XO no matter what software it’s running and they’d get something out of both. I agree with that. But with Windows installed the Sugar based software activties and the specifically designed constructivist environment is absent (Ina Fried describes as this as the XO’s “personality”) and that defeats a lot of the purpose of the project.

It is clear that the One Laptop per Child effort requires strong involvement from governments to be effective. The insistence by some that Windows be packaged with the laptops reflects policies and legislation that were born in a Microsoft world, so these policies give lawmakers limited options. It might not be that they’re opposed to open source solutions – it’s just that bureaucracy is difficult to change once it’s set up. Earlier this year it was reported that Egypt was interested in the OLPC venture only if Windows was the operating system. At the same time we know there is great support for FOSS in Egypt, we also know that Egyptian bureaucracy is the slowest of the slow.

Throughout the chatter today I haven’t seen a single mention about cross-compatibility. I see the heart of the XO as collaboration, both in terms of users and extended community. So my question is, are Windows and Linux XOs going to be able to wirelessly mesh? And, I’ve asked before, is software developed for Windows based XOs going to be compatible with Linux XOs?  Does this mean we’re going to need two separate communities working on basically the same thing, without the ability to share? What happens when kids form different schools meet and some of them aren’t able to join in due to incompatibility?

A dual-boot option goes some way to alleviating my concerns, but there’s a fiscal cost associated with it that takes the machine further away from being affordable. I guess we wait and see!