Microsoft is serious about getting Windows XP to work on One Laptop Per Child's low-cost laptop, but the company still isn't sure it will be able to make a go of it.
In an interview, James Utzschneider, the general manager of Microsoft's emerging market unit, says Microsoft has devoted about 40 employees and contractors to work on its effort.
However, there are plenty of technical hurdles, he said. One of the biggest is the fact that the XO has no hard drive and only 1GB of built-in memory. The company concluded it needed at least 2GB of memory just for Windows and Office, so it convinced the OLPC folks to include an SD slot on the laptop's motherboard.
Microsoft's current plan is to get its low-cost Windows and Office bundle to fit on a 2GB SD card that can be added to the laptop. It also has to write new BIOS software to ensure that the operating system can boot directly from an SD card.
Just to get ready for a planned trial in January, Microsoft must write about 10 different hardware drivers to support things like the XO's special screen, its mesh networking, camera, and other unique features.
"To support all of that takes time," he said, noting that Microsoft has been working with OLPC for a year, but until recently, the software maker only had a handful of machines with which to do its development and testing.
Utzschneider said Microsoft normally wouldn't have even talked about its XO effort this early, but was concerned by statements made by Nicholas Negroponte that suggested Windows was ready to go on the XO.
"We wanted to come out and say flat out that's not the case," Utzschneider said. "Despite all of the rhetoric, we don't think we can have a production version until the second half of 2008."
Only after the trial, Utzschneider said, will Microsoft make a decision of whether it will commit to releasing XP for the device, though it certainly has that as its goal. And even if it does create such a version, it has no plans to allow those taking part in the Give One, Get One program to add Windows to their machine.
"It's clearly our goal to ship a release," Utzschneider said. "But we are not confident that the combination of all of this will work with the quality people would expect with Windows XP running on a laptop.