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The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative this week (20 May) unveiled a new version of their XO laptop — the 'XO-2' — to be released in 2010.

OLPC, a non-profit organisation aiming to distribute laptops for education in developing countries, also announced last week (16 May) that it will make Microsoft's Windows operating system available on its laptops.

The XO-2 is planned to cost US$75 — lower than the intended US$100 price for the XO. The XO has yet to achieve this price, which currently stands at US$188.

The new version will be half the size of the XO and have two touch-sensitive displays, meaning it could be used in either a book-like format or a conventional laptop format.

Its screen will be adapted to be visible in either low or harsh light, and it will use less power — a reduction from two to four watts to one watt.

The decision to make the XO and subsequent models compatible with Windows was made after OLPC had difficulty distributing laptops that only hosted the open source operating system Linux.

"It is true that some governments are reluctant to purchase a non-Windows based laptop for their schoolchildren. That is precisely why OLPC is working with Microsoft to put Windows on the XO laptop," OLPC spokesperson, Jackie Lustig, told SciDev.Net.

Nicholas Negroponte, founder and chairman of OLPC, plans to develop a 'dual boot' version of the XO — allowing users to choose between Linux and Windows, on the same machine — to give students in developing countries the widest range of choice.

OLPC will begin field trials of their Windows-based XO with schoolchildren next month (June) in "key markets", which have yet to be decided.

Lustig adds that "OLPC will work with [software developers] to develop a version of the Sugar user interface that will run on top of Windows."

The Sugar program was created by OLPC to promote an interactive and user-friendly educational experience for school-kids.

"Based on feedback from governments, educators and most important, from the children themselves, we are aggressively working to lower the cost, power and size of the XO laptop so that it is more affordable and useable by the world's poorest children," said Negroponte in a press release.

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