Ford workers drive home with a cheap PC

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The Ford Motor Company is going to offer each of its 350,000 employees the chance to lease an Internet-ready PC for just $5 a month. Everyone from India to Indiana will get the chance to take part in the global initiative that Ford executives hope will help develop IT skills among workers and their families. This expression of corporate philanthropy is also seen as a worthwhile perk for employees. It could well herald the start of a number of similar offers among other multinational companies. Although officials at Ford refused to say how much the scheme would cost, one estimate suggested the motor company would have to find $100 million a year to fund the employee offer. The initiative has also created a digital spin on its founder's famous adage, "you can have any colour car you want -- as long as it's black." A reference to the Model T, which was available only in black. This time it's: "You can have any PC you want -- as long as it's a Hewlett Packard Pavilion with a 500MHz Intel Celeron chip, 4.3GB hard disk, a CD-ROM drive, 56K modem, speakers, 15-inch colour monitor and Microsoft software." Employees will also get an ink-jet printer. Internet access will be provided by UUNet and users will be able to access a Ford portal available in 14 different languages. Advertising would not be used to help fund the service, the company said. The first PCs will be shipped to US employees in April. A spokesman for Ford in Britain said its 33,000 workers could expect to receive their PCs early next year. ®

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