It's all over the news, Mandriva closes a deal to deliver thousands of laptops to schoolchildren in Nigeria with Mandriva Linux preinstalled. Then suddenly the customer decides to replace Linux with Windows. Mandriva CFO cries "foul" and the usual frenzy ensues.
A sad day for Mandriva? Certainly. A sad day for education in developing countries? Not particularly. For their project, Mandriva chose the Classmate PC, a laptop project which was envisioned by Intel after the latter missed out on the OLPC educational project and had to hack together something cheap. The folks at OLPC however realized from the very beginning that selling stripped-down ordinary computers below cost would bring them nowhere.
Now the whining is all about how hard it was to coordinate everything, how much work went into it, and so on. But they chose an inferior and unsustainable platform. The OLPC's visionary design required a clean software design to complement it, something Microsoft has had a hard time to achieve. Making the Classmate PC run Windows doesn't cost Microsoft a thing, so it's hardly surprising that they opted for piggybacking into Nigerian classrooms.
I hope Mandriva have learned their lesson and stop being bad losers. They have interesting products in the pipeline. Had their laptop been based on the same CPU as their upcoming Loongson Box, they wouldn't be in that position now.