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Microsoft To Put Mobile Phones In Hands Of Impoverished


Redmond (WA) - Microsoft has started a new initiative that it hopes will make mobile phones more affordable for people in developing countries, in a move similar to the highly publicized "One Laptop Per Child" program.

The company already has a shell of a project called Fone+, which has been moving at a snail’s pace since it was first unveiled a few years ago. However, with the technologies for under-priveleged countries coming back to the spotlight, it decided to move Fone+ forward with a vengeance.

The move comes as Microsoft’s "Unlimited Potential Group," which focuses on developing nations, appointed a new boss. Craig Mundie, chief strategy officer at the software giant, said in a press conference in Indonesia, "All phones go from dumb to smart, and I think that’s a major focus for us in terms of how we can bring access to the Internet and some of these technologies ... to this rural population."

Mundie pointed out that mobile phones can do a lot of things other than communication, specifically go online and become more connected with the world. "It’s a lot cheaper than having to buy a whole separate computer," noted Mundie.

A project called OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) has been making a lot of headway, with third-world countries ordering low-cost computers by the thousands. It has also been dominating the market in those countries, leaving less room for other players like Microsoft.

"We continue to explore and look at both phone-up models and PC-down models as we look for the right devices for emerging markets," said Mundie.