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China rejects free Mac software

MIT's Media Lab turned down millions of free copies of Apple's OS X operating system, an offer extended by Apple Chief Steve Jobs himself, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. The proposal was Apple's attempt to support the university's effort to supply children in developing nations with cheap laptops, the paper reported. The university decided to use free, open-source software instead because designers can freely tinker with it, the paper said.

But in a note to CNET News "clarifying" the Journal story, Media Labs co-founder Nicholas Negroponte said Jobs' offer applied only to China and that officials in China actually rejected it last year.

"I took (Jobs') offer and mentioned it to the Minister of Education (of China)," Negroponte said in an email relayed by a Media Labs spokeswoman. "He said: 'No thank you,' that they preferred Linux and Open Source."

One Laptop Per Child, the nonprofit Negroponte set up a few months later to carry out the $100 laptop mission, never dicussed OS X but agrees with China's position, he said.

Negroponte is in Tunisia this week for a United National technology conference. He's scheduled to demonstrate a working prototype of a $100 laptop to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.