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Microsoft elbowing themselves onto the One Laptop Per Child project

Microsoft is working to adapt a basic version of XP so that it is compatible with the nonprofit One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Foundation’s small green-and-white XO laptop.

The OLPC machine uses low-powered technology with limited processing power, no Hard Drive, and little memory but has a target price of $100 per laptop to enable users in the third world to partake in the digital age. Currently the price is $188 as further savings have been difficult to make without larger volumes of sales to drive component prices down.

How replacing the free, lean Linux based Operating System with a Microsoft controlled stodgy and resource hungry OS that has to be paid for can be seen as a boon for anyone other than Microsoft is beyond the ken of anyone who understands the principles of charitable giving.

Microsoft’s knee jerk reaction as a “Johnny come lately” to every market they didn’t think of first is probably what they imagine to be “innovation”. This lack of strategic vision is why their share price has underperformed the market for years.

If I was a shareholder I’d vote to hand the reins over to someone who knows there is more to business and technology than playing “follow my leader” and leveraging a monopoly position to try to force out competition from every niche, niches created by people with more imagination and often better business ethics to boot.

MS have admitted they have spent a “non-trivial amount” of cash on this project already, and it is unlikely to be profitable for them, but just like in other markets the wealth they have amassed through their monopoly behaviour is used to prevent these markets developing freely.

The still unprofitable XBox was launched to limit the PlayStation/Nintendo machines’ ultimate market size, the Zune to compete with the iPod, Internet Explorer was launched to kill off Netscape, Office Online was launched to damage Google’s online aspirations, MS Office was given exclusive links into MS Exchange Server to kill off Apache and Linux, need I go on? There are examples upon examples.

Undermining opportunities for advancement for the poor and underprivileged though is a new low for Microsoft in my book. It’s tantamount to competing with your local church’s weekly collection by saying “pay into our bowl, not the charitable one!” in order to further corporate objectives.


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