Software by Microsoft Is Nearly Free for the Needy

In an effort to expand its global reach in computing, Microsoft plans to offer a stripped-down version of Windows, Office and other software for $3 to people in developing nations.

The program, which is being announced in Beijing today by the Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, represents an ambitious expansion of efforts to introduce products to those who have lacked access to personal computers, especially in developing nations.

While these countries have a growing appetite for technology as a means to spur growth and raise living standards, they also have very limited budgets. Some governments have encouraged alternatives to Microsoft's Windows, notably Linux, a free operating system.

The Microsoft push comes as a nonprofit project, One Laptop per Child, plans this year to start producing machines priced at about $150 — with a goal of reaching $100 — that will run a version of Linux. Several countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Nigeria, have made tentative commitments to distribute the laptops to millions of schoolchildren.

View: New York Times

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