Yesterday, a PLUGger announced to a mailing list about a news that reported Microsoft’s latest initiative that promises to be in the crosshairs again. The initiative is about giving incentives to governments of ’emerging’ countries and even of poor states in rich countries by providing a USD 3 worth of software package (including XP Starter Edition and Office 2007 Home and Student Edition, Microsoft Math 3.0, Learning Essentials 2.0 and Live Mail Desktop) for every student receiving a free ‘Windows PC’ that his government has bought and supplied to him/her.
Sounds philanthropic, right? In fact, it’s no news any longer when one gets to know of any move by Bill Gates (Microsoft’s founder and concurrent Chairman) of that nature. But what looks interesting, if not intriguing, is the motive or intent behind those moves.
Richard Kay of the $100 Laptop per Child project gave a great reaction to that initiative. He said that the initiative is Microsoft’s long-term bet as it holds that students will surely become consumers of its products as they grow older. Chin Wong in his blog said that that the move was a “public relations coup and a shrewd” one.
Wong very much echoes what free and open source software (FOSS) advocates have been viewing this kind of initiatives by Microsoft. He said, “itâ€™s technology lock-in. Itâ€™s all about creating a new generation of computer users who are hooked on Windows and programs that run under the proprietary operating system.”
“A closer look at the $3-deal also exposes software pricing as an artificial and arbitrary affair. Why sell software priced at hundreds of dollars for just $3,” Wong asked rhetorically. The rhetorical answer to that is that Microsoft, being run by a billionairre, can afford to lose tactically with the view of winning at the end of the game. Besides, PC manufacturers really love Gates for that. Buy a ‘Windows PC’, and we’ll give you $3 dollars worth of software package. Which PC company will not take that ride?
Which leaves me wondering. What makes a “Windows PC” if there is no operating system installed in it at the outset? Does it only imply boxed brand-new machines with the label “Windows XP Ready” or something to that effect? Does it mean an agreement between an eligible government and Microsoft wherein the former is not allowed to change operating system like forever?
To summarize, the $3 dollar bet by Microsoft represents the following:
1 dollar = Embracing the principle of ‘preferential treatment’ for the underprivileged.
1 dollar = Extending services that have lock-in features.
1 dollar = Extinguishing competitors like the free and open source computing alternatives.
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