OLPC Spin-off Developing UI for Intel's Classmate PC

Intel could give its Classmate PC a user interface similar to One Laptop Per Child's XO laptop, with the chip maker preparing a version of the Sugar UI found on OLPC's laptops for its educational laptop.

Intel has tied up with Sugar Labs Foundation to develop a version of Sugar, the UI (user interface) originally developed for OLPC's XO laptop, for its Classmate PC, said Walter Bender, a founder of Sugar Labs and OLPC's former president of software and content.

"A community volunteer is working with Intel on Sugar for the Classmate PC. Sugar Labs helped to expedite the relationship," said Bender in an interview.

The move comes six months after Intel resigned from OLPC's board after refusing to abandon its Classmate PC program in favor of OLPC's efforts to promote XO laptops in developing countries.

Intel declined comment on Sugar's development for the Classmate PC.

Loading the Sugar UI on the Classmate PC could be a big boost for its adoption and Sugar Labs' efforts to refine the UI, which provides educational tools for kids. Sugar Labs aims to create Sugar distributions for multiple hardware and open-source platforms beyond the XO laptop.

Besides Intel, the nonprofit Sugar Labs is also working with other PC vendors, Bender said. He didn't name any, but said that OLPC will continue to be primary beneficiary of development work coordinated by Sugar Labs.

"OLPC is the primary, but not exclusive, downstream project. We continue to work closely with OLPC," Bender said. OLPC and Sugar Labs are trying to stay in sync in the development of Sugar, he said.

During his tenure with OLPC, Bender promoted the use of open-source software for the XO laptop in the face of repeated efforts to place Windows XP on the machines. Bender resigned from OLPC in April as the group seemed to move toward loading Windows XP on the XO. His resignation earned him praise from the open-source community.

Bender announced Sugar Labs last month to refine the development of the Sugar UI, on the same day OLPC announced it would start selling Windows XP on the XO laptop. The UI development has been the target of plenty of criticism in the past from OLPC.

After Bender quit, OLPC chairman Nicholas Negroponte questioned the development process of Sugar, calling it a "weakness" due to unrealistic development goals and practices. He urged the developer community to stop bickering and unite.

The open-source community expressed outrage at Negroponte's comments, calling his appeal vague and demoralizing for Sugar's future development. The comments spawned a debate on the merit of OLPC's move to the Windows operating system.

In May, Kim Quirk, director of the technical team at OLPC, tried to reassure developers that OLPC was committed to Sugar as an open-source project, since it provides a great opportunity for learners and contributors, she wrote in an e-mail.

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