Microsoft to give away Windows/Office package for $3

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Beijing (China) – Microsoft on Thursday announced its most aggressive move yet to reach more people that do not have the financial resources to purchase a modern, functional software environment: The company will offer a complete software package built around Windows and Office for $3.

The software bundle, called “Microsoft Student Innovation Suite,” (MSIS) includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Office Home and Student 2007, Math 3.0, Learning Essentials 2.0 for Microsoft Office, and Windows Live Mail desktop. According to Microsoft, the software is part of a “new commitment to help close the digital divide” and an effort to “bring social and economic opportunity to the estimated 5 billion people who are not yet realizing the benefits of technology.”

It isn’t the first time that Microsoft targets especially the markets of developing countries. A little over a year ago, the company unveiled FlexGo, a pay-as-you-go program to rent computers and make it easier for people in low-income countries to finance a computer. The new program announced today does not include a PC, but it offers software that would cost several hundred dollars even in student editions for $3.

The offer, however, is limited to a bulk purchase through governments and includes a whole set of conditions governments will have to meet. According to the ordering criteria, governments will have to subsidize the purchase prize of a PC by a margin of greater than 50%, at least 10,000 PCs have to be ordered at once and delivered in a single language in a single year, and the software must be activated using Microsoft’s general software activation process.

While the offer is aimed primarily at low, lower-middle, and upper-middle income countries, Microsoft will also offer the $3 package for high income countries, if those governments agree to sign up for the firm’s Partner in Learning program and limit the (MSIS) software to “underserved communities.”

“All human beings deserve a chance to achieve their full potential,” commented Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, in a prepared statement. “Bringing the benefits of technology to the next 5 billion people will require new products that meet the needs of underserved communities; creative, new business approaches that make technology more relevant, accessible and affordable; and close collaboration between local governments, educational institutions and community organizations.”