Negroponte passes the Windows "virility test"

Negroponte claims that Windows is the natural choice for OLPC. This is not true, and isn't what he intended to happen. He could at least own up to that.

Wow. Some things are better left unsaid, but since Nicholas Negroponte, embattled founder of the One Laptop Per Child project, said it, I'll quote it :

When I talk to people and tell them we can run Windows, they are very impressed. You pass a sort of virility test.

Until you're emasculated by ceding control of the project to Microsoft, which has a long practice of bullying the hardware vendors who carry its Windows operating system. As for being proud that he runs Windows, why? Since when has it been hard to do that? I guess if you set your sights low enough....

But then Negroponte really crams his foot in his mouth, arguing that he needed the open-source community to get started, but only to do the early heavy lifting to pave the way for Microsoft:

For us to launch the laptop, we had no choice but to use open source. We needed the community. We needed to get (in) there at the OS level to build devices and drivers...to make our point, to make the laptop.

I'm sure the open-source development community around OLPC ( which Negroponte blames for its failure ) loves hearing that it was being used.

Regardless, it's simply not true that open source was the only way to move forward. I'm sure Negroponte could have interested Gates and Co. in using OLPC from the beginning to seed developing markets, but OLPC made a conscious, philosophical reason for going with open source based on freedom.

Negroponte's revisionist history is false. I don't fault him for feeling like he needs to change his strategy based on the current climate for OLPC, but don't appreciate him trying to pretend that Windows was the natural end result for OLPC. It wasn't. It might be an acceptable end, but it wasn't inevitable.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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