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Gates' freebies build support for MS in Indian governments

Giant condom counts as support, apparently...

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Bill Gates' schmooze-cruise of India is working, reports an Associated Press eye-witness. Gates has been "handing out so many freebies to India's federal and state governments in the last three days that talk of open-source software [has] started annoying government officials."

Step forward annoyed Karnataka state information secretary Vivek Kulkarni, who says: "You should not make accusations against a company because it is successful." Richard Stallman was in India earlier in the month arguing that India should treat free Windows like free cigarettes, but he does not seem to have been entirely successful. Karnataka's state government in Bangalore has just been given free .NET software to be used for e-government systems, and according to AP promptly asked for more money in order to computerise the state.

Gates also announced a project to provide broadband for state schools, and provided a possible justification for Microsoft's largesse. Microsoft's prices could be "dramatically lower" for socially relevant projects.

This perhaps is intended to provide some moral underpinning for Microsoft's recent and growing use of 'donateware' to build its presence in government. Not, of course, that the donateware programme is confined to the developing world - au contraire, and if people are willing to take the freebies, the only thing rivals can do is try to out-freebie Bill.

The Indian tour has not been without its surreal moments. When we saw "Gates honored with big condom" on CNN last night, we assumed they'd been hacked. But no, it's there in all its splendour at Reuters, which originated the story, and Bill apparently smiled when he saw the giant air-filled condom in India's rising technology hub of Hyderabad.

Words don't entirely fail us, but frankly, who needs them? ®

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