Windows arrives on OLPC laptop

Microsoft has reached an agreement to make Windows XP available on the One Laptop Per Child Foundation’s XO Laptop.

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Microsoft says it has spent the last year developing drivers to allow XP to run on the XO, and claims the operating system now supports many of the XO’s unique features including its ebook reading mode, custom keys and power-saving modes.

Two features that haven’t made the port, however, are the much touted mesh networking mode and Sugar educational software package, though Negroponte claims the companies are already looking at third party solutions.

Microsoft plans to start trials in key emerging markets as early as June. As with the Eee PC, customers will be able to choose either the original Linux operating system or XP at the point of sale.

According to Negroponte, the ultimate goal is to develop an XO which can dual-boot, leaving the user to decide which operating system to run when the machine boots up. However, he gives no time-frame as to when such a machine may appear.

Hints that an XP-loaded XO machine have been coming for some time, with Negroponte admitting in April that the foundation had to be “pragmatic” about its mission, especially with sales for the XO thought to be lower than original estimates.

Getting XP onto the XO represents another big victory for Microsoft, following the release of XP on the Eee PC. The company has long been wary of losing control of the low-cost laptop market to Linux and now looks to have gained a solid foothold in a booming market.

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