This combination of stories makes me crazy:

Just as Good as Windows isn’t Good Enough [1]
Choice quotes: “In the end, if all else is equal, Windows get the nod because it is a safe choice. ” and “In this scenario, TCO does not come into play because ongoing support will be local and will come from other funding sources.”

A Little Laptop with Big Ambitions [2] (WSJ so no idea how long this will be available.)
Choice quotes: Last sentence in the article: “Just who would provide support a few years from now, he said, was ‘a frightening question.’ The students, he said, will need ‘to do as much maintenance as possible.’” and “Nigeria, for example, so far has failed to honor a pledge by its former president to purchase one million laptops.” and “It recently inked deals to sell hundreds of thousands of Classmates in Nigeria…”

and (though almost completely unrelated)
Software Group Targets Small Businesses
Choice quotes: “Of the $13 million that the BSA reaped in software violation settlements with North American companies last year, almost 90 percent came from small businesses, the AP found.” and “The letter demanded $67,000 — most of one year’s profit — or else the BSA would seek more in court. ‘It just scared the hell out of me,’” and and “some employees had been unable to open files with the firm’s drafting software, so they worked around it by installing programs they found on their own” and “‘It was basically just a lack of knowledge and sloppy record-keeping on my part,’ said Gaertner, who ended up with a settlement that cost him $40,000.”

First off, it really bugs me that none of the articles pick up on the educational opportunities of having the source code available and the OLPC feature of actually showing the student the code that is running at the moment. I guess this is just too geeky to be considered relevant to the politicians and journalists.

But really, there are three issues at work in these articles: support, piracy/TCO/license management, and security/safety.

On support, the WSJ article cites OLPC support as lacking, emphasizing the importance of this point by ending the article with it. Yet, there is no discussion on Classmate support and the ZDNet blogger posts that Classmate support will be “local” which doesn’t sound much better to me than the OLPC support. Plus teaching the students how to support the OLPC (both hardware and software) provides another educational opportunity for the kids.

On piracy (and the cost/complexity of managing software licenses), while I don’t expect the BSA to go after school kids worldwide, it wouldn’t really shock me if they did and they would conceivably be within their legal rights to do so. Who will manage the licenses for the software installed on the Classmates to ensure that they don’t run pirated software? Will the schools be responsible? The governments? The parents? The children? Will they implicitly allow piracy on the student laptops, training them to disregard the issue and then smack them down once the children grow up and start their own small businesses?

And finally, on security, while Windows is mentioned as being perceived as the “safe choice” (and while I hate to pick on Nigeria here), it just makes me cringe to imagine hundreds of thousands of Windows laptops out there with none of the thoughtful security improvements of the OLPC that will prevent them from becoming spambots.

[1] http://education.zdnet.com/?cat=65
[2] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119586754115002717.html?mod=home_we_banner_left
[3] http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/071126/software_watchdog.html?.v=2