Microsoft philanthropy driven by revenues

"Give me a child until the age of seven and I will give you the man" is the Jesuit motto; Microsoft is hardly the first IT company to add "and the paying customer" on to the end of that.

  • E-Mail
By  Peter Branton Published  April 26, 2007

"Give me a child until the age of seven and I will give you the man" is the Jesuit motto; Microsoft is hardly the first IT company to add "and the paying customer" on to the end of that.

The software giant's latest initiative in the education field is one of its most ambitious yet: it wants to double the number of computer users to two billion by 2015 and is offering cut-price software to governments that provide free PCs to school children.

The software comes in a bundle, called the Microsoft Student Innovation Suite, that includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 and other programs - all for just US$3, rather than the hundreds they normally cost.

"All human beings deserve a chance to achieve their full potential," Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said when announcing the initiative in Beijing, China, last week.

However, reading between the lines it is not hard to figure out why Microsoft is so keen to reach that next two billion: in China, as with many other emerging markets, the vendor is more used to seeing its software pirated and sold at a fraction of the price of the genuine product.

Orlando Ayala, senior vice president of a Microsoft business unit set up to target emerging market segments, acknowledged in an interview with Reuters that "this is not a philanthropic effort, this is business".

By offering starter editions of its software at a price point attractive enough to discourage users from pirated versions, Microsoft is clearly hoping to "lock in'' some of those next one billion users for itself. What it doesn't want to see is them adopting Linux or other freeware packages or - perhaps worse - buying into Google's vision of software.

With Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer making a flying visit to the region this week (visiting Qatar and Kuwait for half a day each), it is clear the company has learned some useful lessons of its own about how to build and retain customer loyalty.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code