Microsoft to Offer Software to Developing Countries for $3

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has announced its plans to offer its Office software to developing countries. The cost? Only $3.

The new plan contrasts the OLPC effort, which aims to equip classrooms in developing countries with an entirely new platform. Rather than offering any hardware, Microsoft is expected to rely on the upcoming Intel Classmate PC to run its software. Microsoft is offering Windows XP Started Edition, Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student Editions, and various other educational programs. (

Microsoft has dubbed this effort "Unlimited Potential," a title which reflects the company's goal to double the computing base by 2015. Microsoft plans to achieve this hefty goal by reaching a billion people with their discounted software. In order to qualify for the low price, governments will have to provide free PCs for school use. (

Microsoft surely has some competition in this venture, particularly with Linux. "Linux is very popular in developing countries for reasons of cost and local control," explained Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff. Worries of piracy and product delivery costs are also a concern for Microsoft. (Source:

Microsoft has been frank about its reasons for expanding into developing countries. Senior Vice President of Emerging Segments Market Development Group Orlando Ayala said: "This is not a philanthropic effort, this is a business." (

Bill Gates, however, seems to disagree. "It's about innovation, it's about integration, and it's about creating jobs in those regions," he said. (Source:

On the technical front comes the question "why not Vista?" Charles King, principle analyst for Pund-IT, says that XP makes more sense. "I think, at one level, XP is a fully-baked and mature operating system and for basic functionality, it might provide most of what a user would need. One nice thing going for XP, except for the oldest systems out there, XP will run on pretty much anything and it has lots of support for different drivers." (Source:

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