CNews, a Russian IT publication, reports Microsoft is working with Intel and a Russian charity on a plan to double the number of PCs in Russian schools, valuing the bundle of Windows XP and Microsoft Office at $3/copy.
The bundle, called the Microsoft Student Innovation Suite, also aims to make present illegal installations in schools legitimate for as little as $14/machine.
The plan is similar to one announced by Bill Gates in Beijing last April, where 90% of Windows copies are pirated. The picture, from CNews, is of Gates with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
CNews is frank in suggesting this was done to head off a Chinese Linux effort dubbed Red Flag Linux, and a similar effort in Russia.
It's hard for me to condemn any of this, however. Hardware is also being subsidized. There seems no requirement that open source not be run on the hardware. Schools are in desperate need of better computers.
What is clear is that, while no longer CEO or even chief software architect at Microsoft, Gates has become the company's Secretary of State, using his fame and personal wealth to open doors for the company that might otherwise be closed.
As CNews notes, Gates is received by members of the Chinese Politburo when he travels to China, and holds honorary titles with the capitol's two top colleges, Beijing University and Tsinghua University.
I personally think the issue here is the use of wealth and fame. Linux has no Bill Gates. Should it? And do you agree with me that what Microsoft is doing here is fair, even laudatory?