April 19, 2007 12:01 AM PDT

Microsoft aims to reach next billion PC users

Microsoft aims to reach next billion PC users
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Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is using a speech in Beijing to unveil a new low-cost bundle of Office and Windows, one of several new initiatives aimed at getting PCs into the hands of more people in emerging markets.

The software maker will offer the $3 Student Innovation Suite to governments that agree to directly purchase PCs for students to use in their schoolwork and at home. Gates plans to announce the program at a company-sponsored forum for government leaders.

The collection of software, which will start shipping in the second half of this year, includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Office Home and Student 2007, Windows Live Mail Desktop and several educational products. The $3 price includes the software license, while backup discs and documentation will cost extra. In order to be eligible, governments must pick up at least half the tab for the PC, though the software can also be used on refurbished computers, which can cost as little as $50, Microsoft said.

Microsoft is hoping this program and others will help the company reach more of the 5 billion people who have yet to benefit from the PC revolution.

"We've set an internal goal that by 2015 we will help to reach the first billion of the next 5 billion that have been underserved," said Will Poole, the corporate vice president who heads Microsoft's market expansion group.

Poole said that in the developed world Microsoft has largely reached its goal of a PC on every desktop and in every home. "The PC is an expected appliance in the home for access to information, for schoolwork," Poole said. But, he said, that still leaves five out of every six people on the planet without a PC.

Although many poor governments may not be able to afford to buy computers for their student populations, Poole said there are nations that have expressed interest in doing just that. Mexico, for example, has a program that puts computers in the hands of top students.

"This is a new trend we are trying to embrace," Poole said. "We expect there will be some number of many tens if not single hundreds of thousands of PCs purchased under programs like this over the next 12 months."

Although Microsoft is aiming the PCs at students, it understands that they may get used more broadly by the families who get them.

"We're not going to tell them that the father cannot use it to look for job listings or the mom can't use it to look up health information," Poole said. "Of course it is going to be used however it is that it is used in the household, but the expectation is that it is for the student for education as the primary use."

In addition to the discounted Office and Windows bundle, Microsoft is announcing several other projects. The company will nearly double, to 200, the number of local innovation centers it has over the next two years. Microsoft will also set up an employability portal aimed at helping more of India's technology workers find jobs. The software maker is working with the Asian Development Bank to help build additional technology capacity there.

The efforts mark an expansion of Microsoft's long-running Unlimited Potential program, an effort to bring computer literacy and job skills training to the world's underserved communities.

Poole said that Microsoft can't solve the problem by itself and is hoping to work with other tech companies, governments and international agencies.

"This is not something we are looking to do alone," he said.

See more CNET content tagged:
Will Poole, government, student, Microsoft Office, software company

22 comments

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WHY?!
Why in the world would Bill Gates want to poison the rest of the
world with his insecure, confusing, unintuitive, horrible, crash-
prone, virus-laden, completely unusable operating system?? So the
rest of the world can feel computer illiterate & frustrated just like
90% of Americans already do? Someone should be stopping this
man from spreading his filth any further than he already has. We
need to put Macs in the hands of the rest of the world and show
them what a REAL COMPUTER is supposed to be like.
Posted by scotty321--2008 (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, sure...
Next time you see an Apple for 100 USD post the info here!
'Cause that's how much a computer should cost to be available to the "next billion users".
For "computers over 1000 USD" Apples are at least as prone to "missconduct" as their "Microsoftian" counterparts. I should know it! I'm running an "Apple DTP joint" while working on a PC the rest of the time (when out of office or on other DTP jobs except my workplace). Stop bragging about Apples! They're just as rotten. With a worm at the core too!
Posted by Kostagh (57 comments )
Link Flag
Are you that dumb?
WHY THE HECK WOULD PEOPLE WHO BARELY HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO STAY ALIVE EACH DAY CARE ABOUT IF THE PC THEY USE IS CAPABLE OF GETTING A VIRUS?! Are you on crack? These people are grateful for anything that will help them! Your comment was plain dumb and was plainly the work of an Apple fanboy. People aren't that privileged to own a prestigious Mac (sarcasm).

I don't see Apple trying to reach out to the poor... Hmmmm. They're too greedy and are so paranoid about keeping their products "protected". Poor, greedy Apple. At least Microsoft is thinking about others needs and not about selling 100 million music players...
Posted by whizkid454 (157 comments )
Link Flag
Does...
... this offer of computer software products (which "includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Office Home and Student 2007, Windows Live Mail Desktop and several educational products) from the Microsoft Corporation to the underserved communities in the emerging markets around the world signals the demise of the "LINUX" Operating System. Anyone remembers a company once called "Netscape"!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wonder if the $100 laptop per child....
Had anything to do with this? We all know MS is deathly frightened of Open Source and free software. If you can't beat em, buy em or put em out of business !
Posted by donlinux (2 comments )
Link Flag
Would this be legal in the USA?
I doubt it.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Refurbished computers shouldn't need licenses
Refurbished computers already shipped with an OS whose license earned money for microsoft.

Sure, it may be Windows 98, 98SE, Me, or 2000, but if the user is perfectly happy with the original OS there shouldn't be a need to pay another amount (whether its $1 or $3) unless he wants to run Windows XP starter edition.

Why not sell the full fledged version of Windows for $10? and why bundle MS Office with it? It certainly is a good deal to have MS Office with the bundle, but so much of the developing world has already moved to OpenOffice.org.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Isn't this
exactly how drug dealers get kids hooked on their wares?
Posted by Ian Kirkland (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Software addiction through cheap sampling...
is what a Brazilian government official accused Microsoft of, making the analogy with drug traffic.
Microsoft was so offended by the accusation, that considered dragging the official to court on charge of slander, but could not, because it is true.
Remember, the only thing that Microsoft fears is the truth.
Posted by mariomiy (56 comments )
Link Flag
3rd Rate Software for the Masses
This so called handout of an OS that is ready for the scrapheap
After 2008 M$ will not support it, makes you feel really sorry for
the recipient
Posted by Sniche (108 comments )
Reply Link Flag
After 2008 M$ will not support winxp...
...useless
Posted by tasehagi (19 comments )
Link Flag
Oh Great
1,000,000,000 more zombies spewing out spam.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In this light, there is a question of
You can bet the fine old M$ crimeware machine will be there hyping their same old disfunctional crap, with the wonderfully marginal (no charge) fix and patch fodder being offered between scheduled (BS)OS upgrade "solution" gouges. I wonder; would that be an example of resurection, reincarnation, or reoffence?
Posted by DragonID (1 comment )
Link Flag
Legality?
Isn't this called "dumping"? I assume the cost to make all that softare is more than $3 and if a foreign company did this in the US, it would be illegal (in my opinion, as a non-lawyer!).
Posted by nedlohs (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
People who have never been poor can't feel...
what an exhilarating project the OLPC. I imagine that the majority of participants in the IT forums have never had contact with poverty in childhood or been poor themselves, so they can't understand that, for a poor child, who survives hunger, thirst and infant sickness, the only important bridge to a civilized life is the wisdom acquired from elders, and educational tools.
I do, because my childhood was very poor, but my parents were hard-working and made sure that I had an education. As soon as I learned to read, I read as many books and magazines as I could, always curious to learn more. When I had access to computers, it was fun, too. I learned fast because new knowledge comes easy when one has a good background. I believe that learning is the main goal in life, and goes hand in hand with helping other people to achieve happiness. All other things, material comfort, power in society, are ancillary circumstances, that usually improves as one achieves one's main goal.
For all these reasons, I believe Negroponte is a wise man, who understands the basic needs of every person, and his project will be a revolution. No effort by Bill Gates et al will have such a deep repercussion as the OLPC, simply because Bill Gates only understands business but nothing of poverty and the fundamental necessities of a human being. Bill is just a spoiled brat, and all those who admire him are at least naïve, and need an internship in poverty.
To save his company from great depreciation in the next two quarters, Bill must tell Ballmer to lower the price of Windows Vista drastically, right away. Or else...
Posted by mariomiy (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are so right, mariomiy!
Negroponte understands poverty and I can only hope that he will be able to drop the cost of the machines to the $50.00 mark so that more children in more countries can benefit. People who are accustomed to using copyright and patent laws as a sword rather than a shield as they were intended will have a rude awakening as you intimated in your last sentence. Also, historically, it was the poor who came here from other countries, looking for an opportunity, that made this country great. Their personal success made this country a success. If we shut them out it will be at our peril because the country will stagnate and decline like the Roman Empire.
Posted by mindstorm (1 comment )
Link Flag
 

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