Microsoft Testing XP on $100 Laptops

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has announced they will soon be testing Windows XP on the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) "$100 laptop".  It's all part of a project to produce computers so cheaply that it can be donated to children in the developing world.

Despite the nickname, the machine currently costs $188 to produce.  Known as the XO, it's designed to be sturdy enough to work under a variety of conditions such as in extremely warm or cold countries. (Source:

James Utzschneider of Microsoft says he'll be meeting the team behind the XO this week. He says reports that Windows already works on the laptop are not entirely true.

According to his blog, most hardware manufacturers do their own work to make any adaptations to Windows that are needed to make it compatible with their machines. This hasn't been the case with the XO; the machine was designed and budgeted to run with the free Linux operating system. Microsoft wants to make it possible to have the option of using XP without increasing the costs, so is doing the adaptations itself.

Utzschneider says Microsoft has had more than 40 staff working on the project since the beginning of this year. They'll start testing in January but don't expect to have a fully compatible version of XP until mid-2008 at the earliest. And he stressed that there is no guarantee they will ever be able to make XP work on the XO laptop.

It seems the biggest problem is that the XO uses flash memory for storage (like a memory card on a digital camera) rather than a hard disk. It makes the laptop much cheaper to produce, but leaves much less room for running software. Microsoft staff believe they can eventually make a version of XP that needs as little as 2 gigabytes of storage. However, the current laptop design only has 1 gigabyte. Microsoft has thus proposed the design be changed to include a slot for an optional extra memory card which would provide enough space for XP to run.

There are other problems. Microsoft needs to write driver software that allows the hardware features on the laptop (such as the audio system and wireless networking) to work with Windows. The company isn't keen on the current feature, where children can press a dedicated button on the machine to see the programming behind the software. (Source:

Microsoft's motives behind this project are open to question; no doubt they see a potential market if the project succeeds in creating millions of first-time computer users. Ironically, though, a cheaper and simpler version of XP might have just as much appeal among existing Windows customers.

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