The Olympics run on Windows (XP)

The many Acer computers that dot the Olympic venues are running Windows, but it's the venerable Windows XP rather than one of Microsoft's newer operating systems.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

VANCOUVER, British Columbia--The good news for Microsoft is that all the PCs powering the Olympics are running Windows. The bad news: it's the older Windows XP operating system.

Windows 7, it seems, was a bit too new to be used, while Windows Vista was, well, Windows Vista. So, instead, all the PCs are running an operating system that was first released before the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

Acer has delivered more than 6,000 computers to Olympic organizers--with all the notebooks and desktops running Windows XP. Ina Fried/CNET

Representatives for Acer confirmed that the more than 6,000 notebooks and desktops that they delivered to Olympic organizers were all running Windows XP.

"It was the operating system requested by VANOC (the Olympic organizing committee) and Atos Origin" (the technology integrator managing the Olympics tech operations), said Todd Olson, who manages Acer's tech work in Vancouver.

To be fair, the Olympics tends to be conservative, even in the IT profession. Its mandate to suppliers was to "deliver a flawless Games" not try out the latest in new technology.

And as an Atos Origin executive said last week, so far the games have been, if anything, boring from a technology perspective--which has been the goal.

"My goal is to make sure that nothing happens that has to be reported on," Olson said. "We're here to be behind the scenes."

Out of the 6,200 computers, Olson said there were just a couple of trouble tickets as of Tuesday. Perhaps the most interesting incident came when an Olympics worker got excited during one Olympic event and stood up to cheer, spilling soup all over the laptop. She quickly shut it down and it ended up continuing to work.

Acer offered to get the worker a replacement machine, but she decided that if that machine was hearty enough to survive soup, she didn't want to part with it.

"That's been about the most exciting thing," Olson said. "So, as you can tell, it's been pretty smooth."

Acer and organizers also opted to go with a lot of desktops, but those are small desktops, which Olson said meant less shipping costs and environmental impact.

"We're helping out to decrease their logistics by giving them smaller equipment," he said.

But Acer's goals for the games extend beyond just keeping its technology out of the headlines. After spending a considerable amount to become a global partner of the Olympics, Acer is also looking to make the most of the marketing opportunity. The company has released some limited-edition laptops and monitors with the Olympic logo and also has set up an "Acer Showcase" at one of the main gathering places in central Vancouver. That pavilion, Acer says, is getting about 5,000 visitors per day.

Meanwhile, the Acer brand can be seen all over the games, from the sides of buses to the Internet cafes the company has set up in the athletes' villages and main press center.

That should help the Taiwanese company, which has grown into a leading global and U.S. computer maker, but lacks the name recognition of a Dell or Hewlett-Packard.

"We are very unknown at this point," said Anton Mitsyuk, who manages Acer's sponsorship on the marketing side.