I’m sure you’ve all heard about the One Laptop Per Child initiative. It started in 2005 at the MIT Media Lab. The goal: Create a laptop for kids costing no more than $100.00 USD. 

Recently the cost for that laptop went up to $175.00 USD. Ironically that cost hike came very near the same time OLPC announced the little “green” machines would also run a version of Windows. Also, around this same time, Microsoft announced the release of a very cheap Windows/Office software bundle.

I don’t know about you, but this seems too tied-together to be coincidental.

Think about it, the OLPC initiative was  going to place very cheap laptops into the hands of possibly millions of children. Those laptops would be running an open source operating system (XO) and an open source office suite (OpenOffice). This would have been a huge battle flag for the open source community to wave about. 

And what better platform for this initiative than the open source platform. It’s cheap, it’s easily fixed, it’s supported by hundreds of thousands of users and developers across the globe, and it needs just this type of “marketing” to take it to the next level.

But then around the corner, as always, in its typical Machiavellian fashion, lurks Microsof, ready to pounce on a pet project they should simply leave alone. 

Although I do strongly believe their are far more better ways to spend resources on impoverished countries, this project has a heart and soul that begs the question: is the education of impoverished countries important. Yes it is. And the OLPC initiative shows exactly how to do this while, at the same time, showing the corporate world that there are ways to achieve such successes while not placing energy and power demands on places where those resources don’t exist. 

Think about it: a cheap laptop that can be run with the power of a hand crank. At the same time impoverished children are hand-cranking their way to writing their first document (in the open format), people in more effluent countries are whining about the battery life in their MacBook Pros. 

Don’t worry, I’m not comparing or slamming richer countries.

My question is “Why did Microsoft feel it necessary to step into this picture?” This initiative was perfect. A $100.00 dollar laptop, running open source software, intended to aid the education of poor countries’  children. But along comes MS, the price raises, and the OLPC initiative is now proclaiming the laptops can run a form of Windows.

This is a fairly low blow Microsoft. The timing pretty much reveals the strategy you usually keep hidden beneath your +12 cloak  of subterfuge. But I’m not really surprised. I’m just saddened by this. The OLPC initiative was a chance for the IT industry to really do something special. Now, to me, it seems tainted.

Don’t get me wrong…I have a TON of respect for the philanthropy of Bill Gates. I have come to the point where I no longer associate Microsoft and their Business un-ethics with Mr. Gates. In fact, I’m surprised that the only stamp Bill Gates didn’t put on this project was nothing more than a big fat check. Instead, the company he created, is digging their fingers in a pie they should just leave alone.

I have been applauding the OLPC initiative since it’s inception. Now, I’m not even sure if it will get off the ground. Why? Microsoft.