The Power of the Network Effect

The NYTimes well-established pro-Microsoft slant on technology news is particularly evident in this writeup, which seems somehow to indicate that OLPC had been bullying the Redmond firm. But the news also shows that it’s awfully difficult to beat the network effect, even with free software: Microsoft Joins Effort for Laptops for Children

After a years-long dispute, Microsoft and the computing and education project One Laptop Per Child said Thursday that they had reached an agreement to offer Windows on the organization’s computers.

Microsoft long resisted joining the ambitious project because its laptops used the Linux operating system, a freely distributed alternative to Windows.

The group’s small, sturdy laptops, designed for use by children in developing nations, have been hailed for their innovative design. But they are sold mainly to governments and education ministries, and initial sales were slow, partly because countries were reluctant to buy machines that did not run Windows, the dominant operating system.

[…] [T]he alliance with Microsoft has created some turmoil within the project. Walter Bender, the president who oversaw software development, resigned last month. His departure, Mr. Negroponte said, was “a huge loss to O.L.P.C.”

Inside the project, there have been people who, Mr. Negroponte said, came to regard the use of open-source software as one of the project’s ends instead of its means.