A raft of announcements arrived from Microsoft today about new programs related to education, governmental partnerships and building emerging markets.
The Student Innovation Suite is getting the biggest headlines, perhaps because we don't often see "Microsoft" and "$3" in the same sentence. Or maybe because we don't often see "Microsoft" and "innovation" in the same sentence?
Three dollars is the price for governmental bodies around the world that are also subsidizing the cost of computers for students. The software package will include some basics like XP Starter Edition, Office Home and Student 2007.
Though no figures on the total investment in this program and others announced today are being given, PCWorld.com reports that they are part of the $250 million Partners in Learning program. Microsoft will also expand governmental partnerships by building an additional 90 Microsoft Innovation Centers internationally. The centers function as technology and job skills training facilities for local populations and as job creation facilities for local software development and sales communities.
A Quocirca analyst quoted in the PCWorld.com piece gives Microsoft props for taking the licensing cost factor out of the battle the company is waging in many international markets with open source software. (If in fact it is waging that battle, which Microsoft Senior VP Orlando Ayala weakly denies in the same piece -- though in one sense, he is accurate. It's not as if Redmond will be offering legitimate copies of Vista or Microsoft Office for three bucks.)
Ayala did tell The San Jose Mercury News that many of the individuals touched by these subsidized programs will form the next generation of Microsoft software users -- the next billion or so. You can't fault a cash-rich software behemoth for speeding up the addition of new customers to its rolls, though, when the strategy brings much-needed hardware, software and training to those on the wrong side of the digital divide.