PCs for kids: Microsoft and Red Hat's publicity stunt?

Philanthropy or downright dirty PR trickery?

Philanthropy or downright dirty PR trickery?

Linux vendor RedHat has offered to "enhance" Microsoft's tentative pledge to donate $1bn in software and hardware to US schools. Microsoft offered to give $1bn in cash, hardware and software to underprivileged schools in the US instead of having to settle a number of private anti-trust cases brought against the software giant. That move has inevitably been seen by some as an attempt by Microsoft to get more schools running Windows. So Red Hat this week offered to "enhance" the proposition by fulfilling the software part of the deal so Microsoft can "redirect" the money it would have spent on software into buying even more hardware. Red Hat claimed this will increase the number of computers in the school district of Research Triangle Park from 200,000 to more than one million. But Alan Lawson, analyst at the Butler Group, is concerned this too is a publicity stunt on the Linux vendor's part. He said: "Red Hat can be construed as using the underprivileged sectors it claims to be attempting to help as a media stepping stone - plus of course it's also taking the opportunity to stick the knife into Microsoft." Lawson argued that while schools would benefit from the free software on offer, Red Hat's real motive is to better its own position. He added: "I think that the real issues of the digital divide, irrespective of the country involved, need to be resolved by public and private sector co-operation, not by publicity-orientated activity like this." Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik denied it was all a publicity stunt. He told silicon.com: "It never even crossed our minds. We are the only vendor that has stood up and provided an alternative. We've given the judge something else to think about. For far too long technology providers have seen education as a market not a responsibility. The open source community is now addressing that." Microsoft was unavailable for comment at time of publication.