Friday, May 16, 2008

MICROSOFT JOINS EFFORTS FOR LAPTOPS FOR CHILDREN

After a years-long dispute, Microsoft and the computing and education project One Laptop Per Child said Thursday that they had reached an agreement to offer Windows on the organization’s computers.

Microsoft long resisted joining the ambitious project because its laptops used the Linux operating system, a freely distributed alternative to Windows.

The group’s small, sturdy laptops, designed for use by children in developing nations, have been hailed for their innovative design. But they are sold mainly to governments and education ministries, and initial sales were slow, partly because countries were reluctant to buy machines that did not run Windows, the dominant operating system.

Education ministries want low-cost computers to help further education, but many see familiarity with Windows-based computing as a marketable skill that can improve job prospects.

“The people who buy the machines are not the children who use them, but government officials in most cases,” said Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the nonprofit group. “And those people are much more comfortable with Windows.”

The XO laptop weighs 3.2 pounds and comes with a video camera, microphone, game-pad controller and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration. About 600,000 have been ordered since last fall, with Peru, Uruguay and Mexico making the largest commitments. The alliance between Microsoft and O.L.P.C. comes after long stretches of antagonism, punctuated by occasional talks, between them.

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