XO: SO-SO future
When I first learned of the One Laptop Per Child program 2 or 3 years ago, I was very, very skeptical. A $100 laptop for kids in developing nations? Meh. Don't children in developing nations have more important needs?
But on second thought, there already were many organizations addressing those needs. Perhaps it is a good thing one group tries a different tack. So in November 2007, I signed up for the OLPC Give-One Get-One program. That I could explore a new piece of hardware running Linux appealed to the geek in me. That my then 7 year old son would benefit from the XO appealed to the father in me. And that an XO would be donated to a child in a developing nation appealed to the "do a good deed" in me.
But after winning me over, the future of the XO laptop seems cloudy. With several departures of key OLPC employees and the replacement of Linux with Windows XP, it appears that OLPC has lost its way. It's not that the children care whether their laptop runs Linux or XP; unlike grownups, their minds are remarkably flexible. No, my concern is that XP, with its attendant viruses, patch Tuesdays, and increased hardware requirements over Linux, would prove to be a frustrating experience.
The XO hardware was thoughtfully built for children in developing nations -- durable screen, water resistant keyboard, mesh networking, low power consumption. That same emphasis on children must be kept in mind regarding the software.