Microsoft's $235 million PIL is not so bitter

Microsoft's $235 million PIL is not so bitter

Summary: Microsoft announced this week that it is committing $235.5 million to its Partners in Learning (PIL) initiative over the next five years, bringing its total PIL investment to nearly $500 million. What's not in Microsoft's press release is the fact that a a big reason the Redmondians are investing in PIL is because developing nations are making education and job-training programs a requirement for doing business.


Microsoft's Partners in Learning (PIL) program is one of those intiatives that only the hardest hearted cynics would disparage. Advancing the quality of education? Helping train teachers? Providing students in developing nations with access to technological tools? What's not to like?

Some Microsoft observers -- including a few I wouldn't characterize as mean-spirited haters -- have portrayed Microsoft's growing efforts to seed its technologies in developing countries as Microsoft's response to the growth of Linux and open-source software in relatively (and in some cases, completely) untapped markets. If the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) folks weren't delivering Linux-based laptops to developing world students, Microsoft would have zero interest in being in that market, some believe. And if Microsoft really does want to turn the next billion PC users into Microsoft users, the company better be looking outside of its established markets, some Microsoft watchers argue.

My take? I'm not here to pillage PIL. But I do think it's important to mention the business side of the equation when talking about Microsoft's more philanthropically minded initiatives like PIL.

Microsoft announced this week that it is committing $235.5 million to PIL over the next five years, bringing its total PIL investment to nearly $500 million over ten years. What's not in Microsoft's press release is the fact that a a big reason the Redmondians are investing in PIL is because developing nations are requiring education and job-training investment dollars before they'll even talk about doing business.

Investing in education and training is a cost of doing business in many countries that are at the middle and bottom of the economic pyramid, Microsoft officials acknowledge. Countries like Russia, Libya and Mexico aren't signing technology deals with Microsoft because they like Microsoft; they are doing so because Microsoft is agreeing to provide the kind of technology training and investments in education that they are making a condition of doing business there, Microsoft execs admit.

PIL is one component of Microsoft's burgeoning Unlimited Potential (UP) group. UP is the team behind Windows Starter Edition, the version of XP (likely to be) honed to work on OLPC XO laptops, the $3 Student Innovation Suite (Windows + Office), FlexGo pay-as-you-go subscriptions, MultiPoint collaboration technology and other deliverables.) Microsoft is banking on a return on its UP investments, even when its investments are designed to "do good."

Topics: Linux, Banking, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Microsoft is a for profit entity...

    whose only agenda is to maximize the value of its stock.

    Philanthropy with any expected return is not philanthropy.
    • It's not that simple

      [i]Microsoft is a for profit entity whose only agenda is to maximize the value of its stock.[/i]

      No, I really don't see that. Maybe it's moving in your direction with Bill phasing himself out, but they've always had a sense of mission, a nearly religious sense that they have a grand destiny to guide the world in Bill's Vision.

      Money is good, money is a useful tool, money keeps the stockholders placid. However, money isn't what the top management cares most about.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Money, then Power ...

        [i]However, money isn't what the top management cares most about.[/i]

        The power to control the industry at will with absolutely no competition no matter how remote the possibility such competition exist.

        [i]"In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women." - Tony Montana in Scarface (1983)

        [i]"Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac."[/i] - Henry Kissinger
        • Either way

          I think there's historical basis for believing that Microsoft always saw the power as the route to money, to the extent that money was the objective.

          However, if not then they still have the money now.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
    • So are all companies...

      All companies make profits and care about their stocks.

      That doesn't mean they can't do nice and good things. You don't know what you're talking about.
      • If they don't maximize stock value...

        they can be sued by stockholders. Plain and simple. Read this link to see their hidden agenda.
        • any story that starts off with creatures at Microsoft or any other company

          any story that starts off with "creatures at Microsoft" or any other company i find undependable. the inquirer is just a tabloid with questionable blogers morons really.
          SO.CAL Guy
          • Like it or not...

            what they are saying is fact and not opinion. Microsoft is using this to bolster their product usage and thus their stock value.
  • Summing up

    Microsoft's "charitable" contributions are the same sorts of things that other companies add to their marketing budget: promoting their products to potential customers, establishing in-house advocates on the customers' payroll, samples, etc.

    Note that this isn't a tax dodge: either way it's a cost of doing business. At worst it's just good PR.

    The only objectionable thing I've seen about MS' program is that a condition of receiving any of the training, etc. under the program is that the recipients have to agree to one of Microsoft's blanket purchasing (formerly known as "per-CPU") contracts.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • RE: Microsoft's $235 million PIL is not so bitter

    "[D]eveloping nations are requiring education and job-training investment dollars before they???ll even talk about doing business."

    Sounds like an artificial trade barrier and a tariff surcharge to me. I wonder what the WTO has to say about it?

    • I don't know that the WTO has anything to do with it.

      Governments in countries all over the world impose tariffs on certain goods/industries. Just because it's a tariff, if it is, doesn't make it "illegal", if that's the policy of the particular government.
    • Comment

      The sleek, portable n?vi 350 ( is a GPS navigator, traveler?s reference and digital entertainment system, all in one. It is your pocket-sized personal travel assistant ready for adventure. Like the rest of the n?vi 300-series, you?re just a few screen taps away from anywhere.
      • SPAM!!!

        Take your fucking spam and shove it, bitch!
    • training credits

      Training credits for purchasers of computing equipment were common thirty years ago. This isn't much different.
  • In Microsoft's case

    The end does justify the means.

    Just business as usual in the new Corporate
    Government controlled world, led by
    Microsoft and Washington DC.

    High-tech business and academic groups
    lobby 2008 hopefuls on science funding
    By Ian Swanson
    Posted: 09/26/07 08:12 PM [ET]

    A coalition of high-tech businesses and
    academic groups is lobbying the top three
    presidential candidates in both parties to
    pledge to increase federal spending for
    research in the physical sciences and

    Organized as the Task Force on the Future of
    American Innovation, the group’s members
    include high-tech companies such as Google,
    Intel and Microsoft as well as the American
    Chemical Society, the University of
    California and the National Association of
    State Universities. Defense-industry
    contractors such as Lockheed Martin and
    Northrop Grumman are also members.

    Number of Lobbyist-Fundraisers for 2008
    Candidates Likely to Eclipse 2004 Totals

    Microsoft's Lobbying Abuses

    Microsoft Goes Lobbying Against OpenDocument
    Format in Malaysia,1000000308,2103784,00.htm

    Microsoft's lobbying budget 'outstripped

    Microsoft Lobby, Baffled Legislators Spell
    Defeat for ODF Bills
    Ole Man
    • and the mother of all lobbying abuses ...

      Lobbygate's Gateses

      The coincident D.C. connections of the lawyer father and the software-titan son.

      By Rick Anderson

      Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon, Tom Delay, Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, Preston Gates Ellis, and Microsoft all in a very cozy relationship. It doesn't get any more sleazy then this. ;)
      • Thanks for the link, and we also have the Seattle Mafia

        Core Seattle Mafia Members

        Introduction to the Seattle Mafia

        Blomstrom vs The Seattle Mafia

        Seattle Mafia
        "The corporate powers that rule Seattle (one
        of America's most corrupt cities), along
        with their various "gatekeepers," including
        the politicians they have installed in
        office, the media and various phony

        "Bill Gates is a Seattle Mafia kingpin."
        Ole Man
  • RE: Microsoft's $235 million PIL is not so bitter

    Heh. It's not charity if you are required to PURCHASE something in order to get it. You failed to mention that in your article Mary Jo.
  • RE: Microsoft's $235 million PIL is not so bitter

    All thats ok, but. microsoft doing for Trainer who is in PIL programme. if your's project finished then u kicked them. It is ur's intitative for computer education
  • RE: Microsoft's $235 million PIL is not so bitter

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