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OLPC loses another executive

Posted: 28 Apr 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:OLPC executive? Microsoft? One Laptop Per Child?

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has lost another key person as the foundation overhauls it operations and welcomes Microsoft Corp.'s Windows OS, according to an Associated Press report.

Walter Bender, a longtime Massachusetts Institute of Technology's colleague of OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte, is the president of software and content for the green and white "XO" laptops. However, after OLPC's initial run of its $188 laptops in March reached fewer children than originally envisioned, Bender became head of "deployment."

Officially, the group said it was streamlining its organization because the laptop's technology had been built. However, XO's former top security architect Ivan Krstica offered a different view on the matter adnn wrote on his blog that Bender got demoted. Krstic said OLPC was undergoing drastic internal restructuring and with radical changes in its goals and vision.

An OLPC spokeswoman confirmed Apr. 21 that Bender left the group entirely, marking the third high-profile departure from OLPC. In addition to Krstic, Mary Lou Jepsen, who served as chief technology officer, left in December.

According to Negroponte, Bender was burned out after helping to shape OLPC for two years. However, in an e-mail exchange, Bender disclose he already has new plans including launching an independent effort to further the development of the XOs' homegrown software, known as Sugar, have it run on Linux computers other than XOs.

Sugar vs. Windows
The Sugar system relies on icons and other graphical features and avoids Windows' files-and-folders format in an effort to cater to children in developing countries who have never encountered a PC. This, however, posed problems as some governments have hesitated to invest in laptops without Windows. Competing low-cost notebooks billed as educational tools, such as the Classmate PC developed by Intel Corp., run Windows.

Microsoft has been working for about a year to get a slimmed-down version of Windows to run on XO laptops. Negroponte said Apr. 22 he expects XOs to soon have a "dual-boot" option, allowing users to run Windows or Sugar.

One concern is whether the necessary hardware would add $7 to $12 to an XO's cost, taking the OLPC further away from its goal of offering laptops for less than $100. Negroponte disclose that Windows might eventually be the sole OS in the XO laptops and Sugar would be educational software running on top of it.

The statement might disappoint advocates of open-source software who helped finance OLPC and applauded the challenge it represented to Microsoft's dominance. Wayan Vota commented on his OLPC News blog that Sugar might get neglected on XOs that run Windows.

To these concerns, Negroponte said he was mainly focused on putting as many XOs as possible in children's hands.

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