19 April 2007

Microsoft Embraces (Nearly) Free Software

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is using a speech in Beijing to unveil a new low-cost bundle of Office and Windows, one of several new initiatives aimed at getting PCs into the hands of more people in emerging markets.

The software maker will offer the $3 Student Innovation Suite to governments that agree to directly purchase PCs for students to use in their schoolwork and at home.

I've always been surprised Microsoft hasn't done this before, since it was fighting a losing battle against completely free software in developing countries. But aside from its competitive aspect, there's one that interests me more.

Microsoft is gradually reducing the perceived price of its software to zero. Apart from the difficulties this will cause it in those markets where it is still charging hundreds of dollars, it also means that the move to open sourcing its code, and literally giving it away, comes one step closer. It'll happen, mark my words.

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