Low-cost laptops to change from Linux to Microsoft

José Chang with Microsoft's Lieneke Schol Copyright: Peruvian Ministry of Education

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[LIMA] Peru is about to start delivering XO laptops from the One Laptop Per Child initiative (OLPC) that use Microsoft Windows instead of Linux to schools.

The delivery of 100,000 laptops by the Ministry of Education, will begin next month (October) and end in March 2009, according to a ministry official, who wished to remain anonymous.

The laptops will be delivered to some of the poorest areas of the country, including rural areas in the Andes and Amazonian regions, as well as poor towns on the coast.

The Peruvian government and Microsoft signed an agreement to use Windows XP and Office, as well as other educational resources in the laptops as part of an OLPC pilot program, minister of education José Chang announced last week (18 September).

The move makes Peru the first country worldwide to test the change in the operating system of the OLPC devices.

Chang justified the change from Linux to Windows by saying public school students in Peru "need to use the most modern tools with the most global use".

This view coincides with that of other developing countries. Egypt, for example, says Windows would be preferred because it is the predominant operating system in the world.

But those in favour of free software and open source operating systems such as Linux disagree with this argument. For instance, Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation has written in his blog that proprietary software "is incompatible with the spirit of learning".

Eduardo Villanueva, a professor of communications from Pontific Catholic University, told SciDev.Net that this is a very polemic decision because it is not only about intellectual property rights, but also about the definition of a new educational model, which is quite different from that set up by Linux and its applications.

The Peruvian government have already delivered 40,000 laptops with Linux running their Sugar software (see Peru: first OLPC laptops ‘will arrive in February’).

"Sugar and XP are two different routes; each one aims to a different educational pattern. What will happen with those students who already were learning with Sugar? What are the costs associated with this change and which are the benefits?" Villanueva says.

"I think this is a deep change in the way the OLPC program was conceived, but we haven’t had any information about the goals and objectives from the Peruvian government, and it looks like Peru is just doing what OLPC wants us to do," he adds.