Microsoft software will sell for just $3 (£1.50) in some parts of the
world in an attempt to double the number of global PC users. The firm
wants to bring computing to a further one billion people by 2015.
Governments in developing countries can purchase the cut-price
software, if they provide free PCs for schools.
Other companies and organisations are also trying to boost computer
literacy in developing countries, notably the One Laptop per Child
project. The OLPC are in the final stages of developing a low cost,
durable laptop, designed to work specifically in an educational
context. Millions of laptops will be start to be delivered to
developing nations this summer. The eventual aim is to sell the
machine to developing countries for $100 but the current cost of the
machine is about $150 The first countries to sign up to buying the
machine, which is officially dubbed XO, include Brazil, Argentina,
Uruguay, Rwanda, Nigeria and Libya.
The Microsoft initiative was launched by Bill Gates in Beijing under
the banner of its Unlimited Potential scheme, a program aimed at
bridging the digital divide. The scheme aims to bring the benefit of
computing technology to the remaining five sixths of the world's
population, who currently live without it.
"Bringing the benefits of technology to the next five billion people
will require new products that meet the needs of underserved
communities," said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. One of the first
products, that is hoped will reach the next billion people is the
Microsoft's student Innovation Suite.
The package includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft Office Home
and Student 2007, as well as other educational software. The $3
package will start to be sold to governments in the second half of
2007. "This is not a philanthropic effort, this is a business,"
Orlando Ayala of Microsoft told the Reuter's news agency. In many
developing countries, pirated versions of Microsoft software are sold
very cheaply. Governments will be required to provide free computers
to schools, capable of running Windows, to be eligible for the
The scheme is one of many launched by organisations and big business
to address the digital divide. Search giant Google allows anyone to
download its Google Apps, which includes spreadsheet, word processing
and email programs, for free. In countries such as Egypt, Kenya and
Rwanda, Google has also provided engineers and technical support. In
addition, chip-maker Intel has developed the Classmate PC, while its
rival AMD has launched a scheme called 50x15 that aims to put computer
technology in the hands of half of the world's population by 2015.
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