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Microsoft Education The Almighty Buck

Microsoft Takes On the OLPC 218

Posted by kdawson
from the close-to-free dept.
A number of readers sent us links to a BBC story on Microsoft's plan to provide the "Microsoft Student Innovation Suite" for $3 to governments around the world, for use in schools. The suite contains Windows XP Starter Edition and Windows Office Home and Student 2007, along with other educational software. To qualify, a government would have to provide free PCs to schools. Microsoft's stated goal is to double the number of PCs in use (and running Windows). An unbiased observer might wonder about an agenda of slowing the OLPC project and the spread of open source in general.
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Microsoft Takes On the OLPC

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  • by fotbr (855184) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:25PM (#18799711) Journal
    One could make the argument that you're not unbiased.

    However....even paranoids have enemies, and just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.
  • by simong (32944) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:25PM (#18799733) Homepage
    It innovates nothing but new ways of taking money from computer users while frustrating them in what they want to do. /2p
  • Unbiased my arse. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by supabeast! (84658) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:28PM (#18799797)
    An unbiased observer might wonder about an agenda of slowing the OLPC project and the spread of open source in general.

    No, an unbiased observer would probably see this as an extension of student discount programs Microsoft already offers or an attempt to make a little extra money from markets that currently bring in none. Only a tinfoil-hat-wearing free software zealot would wonder about an agenda of slowing the OLPC project and the spread of open source in general.
  • by iamacat (583406) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:29PM (#18799809)
    I guess Microsoft doesn't want these schools to teach any programming classes. This bundle is great for someone just looking for a good typewriter.
  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:31PM (#18799843)
    ... crack dealers hand out free samples on school playgrounds.
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:35PM (#18799915) Homepage Journal

    One could make the argument that you're not unbiased.
    Especially if that one had just competed in a chair-throwing contest...

    Seriously, if Microsoft's motives were entirely philanthropic, don't you think that they would use their very large and powerful cone of influence to provide these schools with some cheap hardware? I'll bet some folks at Microsoft have a few contacts at a few major OEMs who might just help them out if pressed...

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:35PM (#18799917) Homepage

    Yeah, I'm not sure why anyone starting to build their infrastructure (not already locked in) would want to start with Windows. Even at $3 a copy, that's $3 more than Linux.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:36PM (#18799929) Homepage Journal
    Of course, if we ignore the fact that $3 is a full time employed person's monthly salary in many of the developing countries, especially in africa.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:37PM (#18799937) Homepage Journal

    Only a tinfoil-hat-wearing free software zealot would wonder about an agenda of slowing the OLPC project and the spread of open source in general.

    Are you a shill, or just incredibly stupid and/or naive?

    Microsoft has stated repeatedly that Open Source is the enemy and in so many words. If you missed that, you are simply not informed enough to be qualified to contribute to this discussion.

    Now, Microsoft is saying that they are prepared to work with Open Source. But based on Microsoft's past record of falsehood, fraud, abuse of their monopoly position, price fixing, illegal dumping and bundling, and the laundry list of other complaints, you would have to be some kind of idiot to trust them now.

  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:39PM (#18799973) Journal

    Only a tinfoil-hat-wearing free software zealot would wonder about an agenda of slowing the OLPC project and the spread of open source in general.
    Well, not exactly. Slowing the spread of open source is on Microsoft's agenda. They want to maintain or increase market share, which means preventing the loss of markets to competitors -- including open source alternatives.

    As for OLPC, I doubt they want to slow the project -- they want to make the pie bigger and OLPC will help them do that. They would, however, like to make sure that those children eventually migrate to Windows, which is where the $3 SIS comes in.
  • by Ngarrang (1023425) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:49PM (#18800143) Journal
    Okay, OS+Software for $3. But the school has to provide free PCs to the schools using the deal. Sooooo...where does the PC come from? Or am I not supposed to not ask that question and just blindly applaud Micro$oft for their generous offer?

    Any old $200 to $300 PC will work, right? Oh, wait, the OLPC is currently $150, or something like that.

    Eh.
  • by Unnngh! (731758) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:55PM (#18800245)
    You know, I've never been more frustrated while at the keyboard than when I first learned my way around Linux. Wading through unintelligible man pages, cryptic commands, vague error messages, hit-and-miss support via newsgroups, and different flavors of *nix, really is a pain in the ass when you are not quite sure what you are even looking for to begin with. Not that I haven't gotten frustrated with many a Microsoft product, and the 'Net has become a much better resource than it was back then, but nothing can compare in terms of sheer piss-you-off value than going at the *nix command line as a newbie. The Gnome and KDE interfaces weren't much help, either.

    That being said though, I've been away from Linux as a daily user for a while, and I downloaded Ubuntu a couple weeks back to see what it was like. I have to say, something like this would have been a much gentler in-road to an open source OS. The other stuff is still going on in the background but it has what I consider to be a practical menu arrangement and usable interface. I am pretty sure the tables have not turned in this area yet - OSX or Windows are going to be much less frustrating for the vast majority of the world population - but the gap is narrowing. The OLPC interface also looks like it was well thought-out for use by school children.
  • Groan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Grashnak (1003791) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @12:57PM (#18800267)
    Wow, what a completely unbiased article. Just maybe, it could have been titled, "MS practically gives away software to poor people in poor countries" rather than "MS SUX, LINUX PWNS", or whatever the hell the actual title really meant.
  • by raidient (751898) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @01:03PM (#18800385)
    If the figures in the linked article http://www.cbronline.com/article_news.asp?guid=096 AC51E-EE83-413C-B32A-A4FFDE598E9F [cbronline.com] are close to being accurate then MS are losing $18.5 on each sale (this is without the addition of the cost of development & manufacture). Selling into markets at below cost is called "dumping" and is usually sanctioned. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumping_(pricing_poli cy) [wikipedia.org]
    What makes MS a special case? Nothing.
  • by Rukie (930506) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @01:13PM (#18800583) Homepage Journal
    A think a fear of the OLPC is a little compatibility. Governments might spend a little more, 200, for a PC. M$ is definitely in fear of the OLPC, Linux, and Macintosh. If they can get em while they're young, M$ will have created a market in which they dominate entirely. M$ is afraid, and they want to crush the "uprising" of open source. So, how will they do this? Just create an even smaller percentage of "linux" and "mac" users by giving out the OS for three bucks. What does that cover, the cd, shipping, and a slight profit.
    I still think the OLPC is a better idea. Cheaper, and less likely to crash.
  • Re:Open your eyes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @01:50PM (#18801183) Homepage Journal

    Stop trying to see this from your first world perspective. If its the same price, the governments would be best suited to choose Microsoft. The software works, and just about every company uses it. Its best for the customers.

    Wow! You really drank the Microsoft kool-aid! Let's dissect your statement and find out if it stands up to the ultimate test: that of factuality.

    Assertion one: If its the same price, the governments would be best suited to choose Microsoft.

    First, it is not the same price. It is $3 more expensive per unit. The OLPC project is charging for the hardware, not the software. So your statement is foolish since it is clearly not the same price.

    Second, it is not clear that even a stripped-down version of Windows XP would run properly on the OLPC. The XO Laptop [laptop.org] has a 433 MHz Geode LX processor, which is an architecture known for its low IPC (as compared to other x86-compatible processors of this era.) It has only 256MB RAM and 1GB flash storage. Windows XP is not capable of operating in 256MB without swapping heavily, which would destroy the flash memory. You CAN run Windows XP on a system this slow, or even slower. But it will run like dookie.

    Third, there are a number of reasons not to use Microsoft. I will not go into them now, we all know what they are whether we agree with them or not. But there are basically no compelling reasons for Windows to be used for this purpose. And in fact, there are no compelling reasons to ever run Windows except interoperability with Windows. And that is becoming less and less of an issue all the time.

    Assertion two: The software works

    I find this to be the most hilarious of your assertions. Windows is a gigantic pile of junk. It is utterly, laughably unreliable. It is extremely poorly documented, and there is no way but reverse-engineering to find out what many of the settings in the registry and config files are for. In fact, without using a registry monitor, you have no idea that some of the settings are even possible, because they are undocumented and the keys are not created unless they are needed.

    Windows is not the fastest operating system. Windows does not support the most hardware. Windows is not most secure, or even secure - it is insecure by design and nothing short of a complete security audit (which Microsoft claims is in progress) could fix the problems. And if you did one, you'd probably break all backwards compatibility.

    Oh wait! That's the story of Windows Vista! Which has already been shown to also be insecure, many times over.

    Assertion three: just about every company uses it

    I hope you are aware that Linux is the only operating system consistently gaining market share in the server market. It's good for a wide variety of purposes for which Windows is severely deficient. About the only thing Windows has ever been better than Linux at was serving static pages - and then we got kernel-level HTTP acceleration in Linux. Now there's nothing.

    Also, if everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do the same?

    I've used Linux pretty much everywhere I've worked. I have to admit, this is the first time I didn't feel I needed a Windows box. I do actually still run Windows, because I haven't yet found an alternative to Crystal Reports, and WINE's ODBC is pretty crap still (not that I could necessarily do any better.)

    But I don't feel I need a Windows box! And these schoolkids need one even less.

    Assertion 4: Its best for the customers.

    Right. Because what customers want is DRM, a "security" scheme that asks them for confirmation every time they pick their nose, and utter instability. Those are really features that will help them. Granted, some of that is a Vista feature - but that's the "upgrade" path from Windows XP. Your proposal is that instead of educating a gener

  • That's true. I think I and a lot of linux users were able to get into that sort of thing more gently because we started out on school unix accounts over dial-up, or at the very least had done command line stuff via DOS previously.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:08PM (#18801499)
    Not quite, it costs exactly $0 to get Ubuntu delivered. (https://shipit.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com])
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rbanffy (584143) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:30PM (#18801945) Homepage Journal
    You also have to factor in the energy spent running the computer (I assume it's an aging desktop PC with a CRT monitor) is much, much more than the price of the OLPC itself.

    I hope any politician that gets into this is removed from power and put in jail along with the MS exec who made the sale.
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Thursday April 19, 2007 @02:33PM (#18802019) Homepage
    OLPC is a tool for learning. It's not a word processor and spreadsheet. OLPC software will come with source codel. Is Microsoft giving away the source for Word and Excel?
  • by mangu (126918) on Thursday April 19, 2007 @05:56PM (#18804941)
    giving out the OS for three bucks. What does that cover, the cd, shipping, and a slight profit


    I don't know what kind of profit is "slight", but at that price they won't be able to compete in the free market against Third World street vendors.


    I live in Brazil, where you can buy a copy of XP for R$5, which is about US$2.50 at today's rates. This includes the CD with a plastic cover and a printed sheet with the activation key. Think of that, someone can copy a CD in his home PC and sell it at a lower price than the biggest software vendor in the world can do in a worldwide production and distribution scheme.


    If Microsoft really wanted to distribute Windows with charitable intentions, they could do it without financial loss at less than $1 per copy.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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