October 10, 2007 9:14 AM PDT
Newsmaker: At Microsoft, seeking the next billion computer usersSee all Newsmakers
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They basically can be time-sharing the screen and working collaboratively. What we found is that not only do they get to be more engaged with what they do on the PC...but they help each other. That's turned out to be something that's very beneficial from an education perspective. The kids are engaged and collaborating to solve a problem.
A lot of people think that for much of the world the first computing device that people use won't be a PC. It'll be some sort of mobile device. Obviously, that's an area that Microsoft has spent some time on, but it's a little bit further from its comfort area. What are you doing in the mobile space as far as non-PC devices?
Poole: Well, we certainly agree that the first computing device which will be used by many people around the world will be a phone. You see this happening in emerging segments all around the planet today. Mobile phones are really just taking off as the prices come down and the access is going up. We think that there are some interesting things to do to help make the mobile phone become a better device.
Poole: Well, it's still got a ways to go. We've got it in development in China right now. We've got a manufacturing partner signed on with us, and our group in Beijing is working quite hard on it. It'll be in trials I think within a year and we'll see how people respond to it. It's a new concept in the sense of trying to bring together PC and phone technology in a lower-cost device. It's not something that you're going to see a businessperson in a developed market using while walking down the street. We're trying to really target the needs of a broader population and so we're very excited about the opportunity there, but time will tell.
Obviously, Microsoft is not the only company looking at how to get computing devices into the hands of more people across the globe. The project that's gotten the most attention is the One Laptop Per Child project. What do you make of a program the group is launching in which people in the U.S. can buy one of the laptops for their own use, and then a second computer would go overseas?
Poole: It's an interesting way to get people involved in this challenge that we all see, which is how do you effectively apply technology to education. I'll be very interested to see how it comes out as well.
How important is it that that first device people use be running a Microsoft operating system versus Linux or another operating system?
Poole: Interestingly enough, we don't see that as much of a battle. The battle is around nonconsumption or around buying a new two-wheeled motor vehicle as opposed to buying a PC for the home...Clearly, we have an interest in having our software used and we think that the value that we offer is very deeply desired--particularly as people get into more of the business world...But our primary goal is around just getting technology to be adopted.
How much might Microsoft benefit in the coming years from these efforts to get more people using computers?
Poole: There's no doubt that the growth potential in emerging markets is tremendous...When Bill Gates announced the Unlimited Potential effort back in April in Beijing, he said that we'd like to see the first billion people get benefits from technology by the year 2015. It's going to take a while for us and all of our partners working together to make this happen. But it's something that we think will happen.
I've heard he's really tasking you guys to do it a few years sooner than that.
Poole: Well, you know, Bill is never one to let you off easy. He wants to set a high bar and usually he finds out that people will go for it. We're going to go as fast as we can, but it's not something that Microsoft alone can do. It really is a matter of us working with many, many other companies around the world, including the NGOs or governments or foundations. I think as people get excited and see the results, it will snowball and really pick up momentum.
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