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British schoolkids and teachers are to be offered discounted Windows 8 laptops and tabs in a Microsoft programme to close the digital divide.

Government-funded schools have become eligible to receive Windows 8 Intel-based laptops and tablets from Asus, Acer and RM Education that are loaded with software and that have had 30 per cent shaved off the RRP. Machines are for the personal use of students and teachers.

The offer comes under a programme called Shape the Future from Microsoft, Intel and education sector reseller and service provider RM Education.

Shape the Future is being launched in the UK with the Windows 8 offer. Devices are only available through RM.

RM said in a statement: "Government-funded UK schools will be eligible for the scheme which provides a range of high-quality, affordable, Windows 8 devices with top-flight software pre-installed to students and teachers for their own personal use."

Shape the Future is an existing effort from Microsoft described as trying to “close the opportunity gap between rich and poor by putting technology in the hands of every child.”

Education is a fragmented market including old Windows PCs, large amounts of Apple equipment – especially higher up the academic chain – and, now, Raspberry Pi.

The Shape the Future launch is described in terms of using computers to help improve children’s earning potential later in life; others, particularly those in open source, will see such offers through the filter of the Jesuit boast: “Give me the child for his first seven years and I'll give you the man.”

The national education curriculum has already been criticised for equipping students with all the IT skills necessary to open and use a Word or Excel doc. ®

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