The latest article on the OLPC Windows XP pilot to take place in Peru over at OLPCNews has attracted a good conversation to it. The comments generally split between Pro-Windows people seeking more functionality for “Real World” applications and those who are afraid Microsoft’s entrance into the project will close some of the openness of the XO platform. I was under the impression that the real backbone of the OLPC project comes from the community developing the content (software and educational material) since there’s only so much 50 guys in Boston can do for the whole world (let’s talk localisation, people!). The XO platform is hardware that was never designed to integrate with Outlook ’97, Visio or Frontpage, it was designed explicitly so that other people could develop software for it.
I see no additional value in teaching Peruvian kids “MS Office” – if I did I’d have to concede that between learning how to spell, learning how to write and learning a computer to record it all, the value of all these things is on par with the simple fact that most of the developed world uses the Microsoft flavour and that this makes all the difference. I don’t. As one myopic commenter put it, “When I was in school, the de-facto standard in computing was DOS 5 with Wordperfect / Quattro Pro. By the time I hit the workforce, the standard was Windows XP and MS Office XP.” That is to say, without without training, his transition to new proprietary software was untroubled.
Most (all?) of my teachers through school had appalling computer skills. And if a poor Peruvian kid manages to make it big on his XO and moves to The Land of The Free…give him a 10 minute crash course in Word and he’ll be up to scratch with most other office workers you’ve ever met.