For those of us part of the computer and internet generation the wars between software giants has been a constant background hum. The rise and rise of Microsoft to become the most powerful corporation in the world has been resisted at every step. Unluckily for us the whole structure of programs, networking, communication, software and hardware distribution was hardwired to facilitate a single solution.
At last Microsoft isn't the only choice anymore. Mac OSX is popular, sure, but still a niche product, with the ipad they've even abandoned their long imitated filing system.
Why? Because they're closed systems in an open world.
Who wants a stereo which can only play Phil Collins albums?
Plus no-one seems to be really interested in productive content creation. They're all systems designed for ease of consumption.
As former CTO of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and currently on leave as executive director of the MIT Media Lab, that crucible of progressive digital thinking, Walter Bender is the founder of SugarLabs, a company dedicated to the development of the Sugar operating system. If this has passed under your radar you need to adjust its' settings. Over 1.5 million people are already using it as installed in the XO-1 and it looks like it could be a formative experience for a whole new generation of computer users.
The key word is utility. From its' power management system to its' screen (see Mary Lou Jepsen post) the XO-1 is designed to be rugged. What does that mean in terms of its' operating system?
Sugar is designed to help kids engage in the digital conversation that western young people take for granted. It's surely crucial that the voices of children in the less developed world are heard. Sugar offers a simple, intuitive, visual interface that has loads of cool built-in specs. The concept of dialogue permeates right through the system as a fundamental principle of the whole project.
As the internet becomes primarily a channel for the creation, distribution and sharing of content, Sugar and the XO-1 enables this in places where ISP's are a distant dream. Best of all you can totally run around software corporations and however they decide to limit your digital world. Sugar is open, transparent, accessible, free, active.
Walter Bender will be at TEDx Brussels on December 6