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Microsoft squashes talk of dual-boot XO laptop

Microsoft and the OLPC are working on a laptop that would be capable of running Windows and Linux, but it's not a dual-boot system. Sort of.

Lesson learned: Just because something can run two operating systems doesn't mean it's a "dual-boot" system.

Microsoft put the kibosh on talk of a dual-boot XO laptop after OLPC chairman and founder Nick Negroponte told IDG News Service Wednesday that the two organizations are working on such a project. "While we have investigated the possibility in the past, Microsoft is not developing dual-boot Windows XP support for One Laptop Per Child's XO laptop," a Microsoft representative said in a statement Thursday.

While that might appear to be a flat-out denial, in a way, it depends on what your definition of "dual-boot" is, to paraphrase Slick Willie.

The OLPC and Microsoft are working on an XO laptop that would ship with the Linux operating environment designed by the OLPC, but that could "securely reflash" over to a Windows environment stored on an SD card and back, according to Walter Bender of the OLPC. If Negroponte wasn't misquoted calling it a "dual-boot system," then he misspoke, Bender said, also noting he wasn't there during the interview in question.

So what does that mean? That plan wouldn't seem to result in a dual-boot system in the strictest sense, using Apple's Boot Camp technology as the example. But Microsoft's plan for the XO was always to have Windows boot off a 2GB flash memory card, since it needs more than the 1GB of flash memory that ships with the XO in order to run even a stripped-down version of Windows and Office.

While that's a little different from a "dual-boot system," it is a method that will allow Linux and Windows to run the same laptop, which is perhaps where Negroponte's confusion began.

However, Microsoft hinted that in the future, Negroponte might not be the best spokesman for anything about the XO related to the software giant. When it comes to the progress of the Windows-based XO, "Microsoft recommends contacting the company directly for any further updates," it said in a statement.