Richard Stallman is urging OLPC developers to reject Windows and others to help out with Sugar. Noting that they must feel betrayed, he explains why Windows on OLPC is a very bad idea.
Those who have supported the OLPC project with their effort or their money may well feel betrayed. However, those concerns are dwarfed by what is at stake here: whether the XO is an influence for freedom or an influence for subjection.
Proprietary software keeps users divided and helpless. Its functioning is secret, so it is incompatible with the spirit of learning. Teaching children to use a proprietary (non-free) system such as Windows does not make the world a better place, because it puts them under the power of the system's developer -- perhaps permanently.
It is also superfluous. The OLPC has already inspired other cheap computers; if the goal is only to make cheap computers available, the OLPC project has succeeded whether or not more XOs are built. So why build more XOs? Delivering freedom would be a good reason.
The project's decision is not final; the free software community must do everything possible to convince OLPC to continue being
... a force for freedom.
Part of what we can do is offer to help with the project's own free software.
... helpful contributions are those that make Sugar better on free operating systems. Porting to Windows is permitted by the license, but it isn't a good thing to do.
I am typing these words on the XO. As I travel and speak in the coming weeks, I will point to it in my speeches to raise this issue.
Windows under the hood will harm device performance and market perception. If OLPC runs Windows, it will be just what Bill Gates said it was - an underpowered box with a small screen and poor battery life. If you can get Sugar on any cheap laptop with Windows, people will be fooled into thinking Sugar is redundant and performance robbing while they buy into the next wave of cheaper and more powerful alternatives that Intel will be happy to dump on the market. It would be better for them to exploit their first mover advantage before other hardware catches up. They can do this now and promote freedom or they can commit Windows suicide. Not one developer hour should be wasted porting Sugar to Windows. The plans Mr. Gates has for the market were well stated in this interview last January:
OLPC hasn't done that well. Emerging markets are growing for PCs, people are doing cheap PCs. We've always believed in cheap PCs. If the hardware were free, we'd be happy. We're about the software. We're in literally over 100 countries with special versions of Windows, including Starter Edition. OLPC is nowhere compared to where we are on this thing. If that form factor, some people want to use that, we'll make sure Windows is available on that.
That's called Phone Plus. Our lab in China is doing some very interesting work. That general idea is that as you could walk around with the phone that it could use any big screen that shows up, that's going to be just standard stuff. The phone will be the entry PCs for a lot of people. The biggest thing in developing markets is the shared PC where you go into the library or the school and you share it. There you want a decent keyboard and a decent machine.
Ina Freid forgot to include the Evil Cackle noise that must have followed. Big publishers would rather cram 20th century broadcast and telco equipment onto the world than have free networks and computers take their place. They want to continue and expand their roll as a gatekeeper of all information which they will keep in their little "cloud". Free computers with free information and community based networks have no place in their world and so OLPC must be subjugated and destroyed.
This is more than a developing world issue. The more control big publishers gain over information, the more difficult it will be to demand freedom for ourselves. The structures we develop to enslave others will be used against us.