The $100 laptop could mark a major breakthrough for the Linux operating system, according to leading CIOs.
The hand-cranked laptop could be in the hands of schoolchildren in poorer countries by late 2006. The goal of the One Laptop Per Child project is to ship the devices in quantities of more than one million per order, for schoolchildren to keep.
The group has already turned down an offer from Apple to provide the Mac OS X operating system for the systems because they want to use open source software instead - probably Linux.
By a narrow seven-to-five margin, silicon.com's 12-man CIO Jury user panel agreed that the move is likely to give desktop Linux enough momentum to make it a force to be reckoned with.
Richard Steel, head of ICT at the London Borough of Newham, argued: "By removing the need of sophistication and support for the full gamut of applications, costs are dramatically reduced for all, so this may well be a market-changing initiative that causes all suppliers to reconsider their 'entry-level' offerings."
Linux is already a force to be reckoned with, said Sean Powley, head of ICT strategy at the London Borough of Barnet. And he added: "It's a great idea. [It] probably won't have corporate ICT decision makers suddenly switching allegiance from the monoliths but will undoubtedly have a major impact on public perceptions of open source."
Paul Broome, IT director of 192.com, said: "It changes everything - with most apps to become web services who cares what the OS or the chipset [is]. It levels the playing field a few degrees in favour of the needy and that must be for the good."
But Graham Yellowley, director of technology at Mitsubishi Securities International, said to succeed against the likes of Windows, Linux needs to do more with big business: "Linux will become a force to be reckoned with if it can increase its market share worldwide with a big take-up by businesses."
Today's CIO Jury was...
Steve Anderson, European IT partner, Davis Langdon
Paul Broome, IT director, 192.com
Alan Brown, head of IM&T, West London Mental Health Trust
Janet Day, Director of IT, Berwin Leighton Paisner
Kirk Downey, CTO, Centrica
Paul Haley, head of IS operations, British Library
Sean Powley, head of ICT strategy, London Borough of Barnet
Jacques Rene, head of IT & projects, Airclaims
Peter Ryder, head of ICT, Preston City Council
Richard Steel, head of ICT, London Borough of Newham
Graham Yellowley, director of technology, Mitsubishi Securities International
Phil Young, head of IT operations, Amtrak Express Parcels
If you are a CIO, IT director or equivalent at a large or small company in the private or public sector and you want to be part of silicon.com's CIO Jury pool, or you know an IT chief who should be, then drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Ranger is the UK editor of TechRepublic, and has been writing about the impact of technology on people, business and culture for more than a decade. Before joining TechRepublic he was the editor of silicon.com.