Monday, January 30, 2006


Digital Divide Part II-Microsoft's Wierd Counter Attack

Like all highly successful corporations Microsoft has been active in responding to actual and potential competition. The $100 Laptop Project of MIT pioneer Negroponte for the schools of the 3rd world and the not so rich becomes a challenging competitor as this cheap laptop plans on using Linux software for its operating system and for its office and productivity applications. Mr. Gates's company will make no money from that. Seven nations (Thailand, Egypt, Nigeria, India, China, Brazil and Argentina) are close to committing $700 for 7 million of these laptops. Then millions of 3rd world children will learn the Linux applications. The nonprofit group, One Laptop Per Child, that is directing this effort, signed an agreement on January 28, 2006 with the United Nations Development Program to work together to develop this technology further along with learning resources. This will require technical support jobs, servers, and more and there will be no money for MS to gain from that. It is hard to come out against computers for the developing countries, so an alternative is needed to prevent this Linux operating system from gaining even further critical mass in the marketplace. Microsoft recently demonstrated a keyboard hooked to a cell phone hooked to a TV. I could chuckle at the idea of children trudging some dusty Egyptian road to and from school carrying a separate keyboard, cell phone and TV set, but that would be too inconsiderate of the 3rd world poor. I don't think Microsoft gets it, or do they? Microsoft's solution seems only possible in lst world countries, the ones more likely to buy laptops and have a ready steady supply of electricity and TV sets at home. Is this the real goal, a defensive strategy to head off Western countries, and U.S. states and school districts anxious to put the "digital pencil" in everyone's hands that might jump for the $100 laptop? But what school has or wants to have a bank of TV sets waiting for kids to plug in their cell phones? Further evidence that they don't get it. Couldn't the immense resources of MS just invent their own hand-crankable laptop running their own software to compete instead of promoting this distracting cell phone gimmick?
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