OLPC (One Laptop per Child) backed away from its commitment to freedom and allowed the machine to become a platform for running Windows, a non-free operating system.
What makes this issue so important, and OLPC’s retreat from free software so unfortunate, is that the “free” in free software refers to freedom of knowledge and action, not to price. A program (whatever job it does) is free software if you, the user, have the four essential freedoms:
• Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program as you wish. Some proprietary software packages come with licenses that restrict even the use of authorized copies.
• Freedom 1: The freedom to study the source code—the algebra-like statements that specify what the program does—and then change it to make the program do what you wish. For instance, you could add new features to suit your taste. Or, if the program has malicious features, as Windows and MacOS do, you could remove them.
• Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute exact copies when you wish. We call this the freedom to help your neighbor.
• Freedom 3: The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions when you wish. We call this the freedom to contribute to your community.
Teaching children to use Windows is like teaching them to smoke tobacco—in a world where only one company sells tobacco. Like any addictive drug, it inculcates a harmful dependency. (Bill Gates made this comparison in a 1998 issue of Fortune Magazine.) No wonder Microsoft offers the first dose to children at a low price. Microsoft aims to teach poor children this dependency so they can smoke Windows for their whole lives. I don’t think governments or schools should support that aim. (via Boston Review, Richard M. Stallman. 2008)