The future of Sugar

The news is out that OLPC and Microsoft have announced an agreement to “make a dual boot, Linux/Windows, version of the XO laptop”. Nicholas Negroponte’s announcement on community mailing lists (unfortunately HTML only but plain text on the wiki) states:

To enable the Sugar environment to reach as many children as possible, particularly in the poorest areas of the world, OLPC must be able to bid on educational technology contracts, some of which require that Microsoft Windows be able to run on our hardware. The increased volumes will lower the XO-1’s price, already lowest in the industry with capabilities no other laptop shares.

The press release and other news coverage states that trials of XP on the XO will begin in June in some countries.

Engadget’s coverage ends with:

As for Sugar? You’ll still be able to get it, but we have a sinking feeling about its future.

Let’s address that right now.

The future of Sugar

First, some quotes from Negroponte’s announcement:

OLPC is substantially increasing its engineering resources and all software development continues entirely on GNU/Linux. We will continue to work to make Sugar on Linux the best possible platform for education and to invest in our expanding Linux deployments in Peru, Uruguay, Mexico and elsewhere.

No OLPC resources are going to porting Sugar to Microsoft Windows, although as a free software project, we encourage others to do so. The Sugar user interface is already available for Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu Linux distributions, greatly broadening Sugar’s reach to the millions of existing Linux systems. We continue to solicit help from the free software community in these efforts. Additionally, the Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu software environments run on the XO-1, adding support for tens of thousands of free software applications.

Sugar as an upstream project

OLPC wants to “enable the Sugar environment to reach as many children as possible” and part of that goal is to have Sugar running on as many platforms as possible. That requires some degree of decoupling from OLPC’s XO builds.

There is now a Sugar roadmap, inspired by GNOME’s release process. It is still aligned with OLPC’s needs for the XO build release process.

Here is the announcement of the Sugar Labs Foundation, Walter Bender’s approach to Sugar development as an upstream project.

Folks, Sugar isn’t going away. We already know that Sugar on Linux can use the innovative features of the XO-1 that XP cannot. Let’s show the world what we can do, standing on the shoulders of thousands of regular people.

[ Coming soon: Ways to get involved in Sugar and collaborative Activity development ]

(Disclaimer: I work for OLPC. The above opinions are mine.)

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6 Responses to “The future of Sugar”


  1. 1 bryan berry May 16, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Well said Morgan. Let’s make this happen and stop having meta-discussions about constructionist education. Let’s actually do ti.

  2. 2 Marco Pesenti Gritti May 16, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    Excellent post Morgan. And +1 to bryan!

  3. 3 Sameer Verma May 16, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    I agree that we have to put efforts first. No questions there.

    However, keep in mind that a superior technology in itself is not enough to improve adoption. There is the classic Betamax vs. VHS case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betamax#The_legacy_of_Betamax What drives adoption isn’t so much the real technology, as it is its perception. We have to make sure that the perception that end users (children, parents, teachers, etc.) hold in their minds leans towards Sugar as being the significant value-add and not a weird thing that isn’t quite like Windows.

    A wider exposure to Sugar will work in its favor (massive exposure and feedback), and by decoupling Sugar from its Fedora innards, we can reach a lot more children. There are many schools in not so poor neighborhoods around the world that already have computer labs. They will now be able to reap the benefits of Sugar. Imagine being able to run Sugar via LTSP-type terminal services across hundreds of computers!

    Its a good thing that such a reshuffling of the stack has led to a shift in scale for Sugar. I sincerely hope its for the best.

  4. 4 Guillermo May 17, 2008 at 2:36 am

    I agree, Sugar introduced a new paradigm for user interfaces that can’t be ignored. Connecting users within a mesh through applications, making every application capable of being shared. I’m glad you will continue to work on the project, and this new directions looks promising. I look forward to develop applications for it.

    Good job.

  5. 5 Austin May 19, 2008 at 12:47 am

    Just on the windows platform compatibility stuff, why not put a small 1% effort into the Wine project? Many of the windows functions are already implemented and the ones that are needed can be done on a case by case basis within a framework that already works for people? Seems to me that saying “it needs windows” is a strange way of saying that we aren’t serious about OSS development and don’t understand how it works.


  1. 1 Free Software Stuff » Blog Archive » Problemi u zemlji malih zelenih (laptopa) Trackback on May 17, 2008 at 12:34 am
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