It’s been an interesting 24 hours for anyone who follows the One Laptop per Child project. Yesterday, OLPC announced that they have teamed up with Microsoft to make Windows XP available on the XO. Then it was announced that Walter Bender, OLPC’s former president of software and content, is forming a new organization called Sugar Labs to spearhead development of the Sugar user interface.
This is an interesting development. I started working on OLPC-related projects a few months ago, doing some work on the user interface for the built-in graphics tablet. Back in January, I wrote about how cool I think the Sugar UI is. I really hope that Sugar can gain some momentum on its own, instead of constantly being overshadowed by the political and ethical issues of the One Laptop per Child project as a whole.
I’ve been thinking about buying myself some kind of ultra-portable laptop, and since I find it almost impossible to type on the XO keyboard, I’m currently eying the Asus Eee PC. I don’t think it makes sense to use a conventional desktop environment on that kind of machine, and I think that the current Sugar UI is a really promising alternative. Now that Sugar is being developed separately from the OLPC project, it will be interesting to see if it can develop into a useful general-purpose desktop shell.