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Microsoft debuts Windows for the Poor

$3 suite for students in developing countries

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Microsoft is to sell a Windows bundle for $3 targeting students in emerging markets.

The Student Innovation Suite will feature Windows XP Starter Edition, Office Home and Student, Microsoft Math 3.0, Learning Essentials 2.0 for Office and Windows Live Mail, and will be available in selected countries where governments pay for students' PCs in the second half of the year. The suite will be extended in 2008 to countries defined as low or middle income by the World Bank.

In what could be the latest dig at Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child, Microsoft today called the Suite an "affordable and reliable" package for primary and secondary school students.

Last year Bill Gates mocked Negroponte's wind-up device, while the Indian Government dismissed the machine as not serious.

The offer comes after Microsoft conceived Windows XP Starter Edition in 2004, to stave off Linux and open source in emerging markets where users were simply unable to pay the hundreds of dollars needed to license Microsoft's software.

Microsoft's focus on governments comes after Windows XP Starter Edition had originally targeted local OEMs in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The operating system was devised as the governments of Thailand and Malaysia separately sponsored projects to build sub-$250 desktops and $400 laptops for their citizens. Microsoft had abstained from these projects because of its unwillingness to depart from a single price list.

Microsoft has also today committed to double its number of Innovation Centers to 200 in the next few years, providing advice and hardware to local developers. ®

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