Gates on OLPC, Windows Home Server

The Microsoft chairman discusses where the XO laptop fits on his radar screen (not too high), as well as other efforts to bring low-cost computing to emerging markets.

In addition to answering questions about how Microsoft plans to take on its rivals and capture the hearts and devices of consumers, Chairman Bill Gates spoke to CNET News.com on other topics, not all of which fit into Monday's Newsmaker piece. Here are a couple more questions and answers from Gates.

Q: One area that I know is important to you is emerging markets. Do you take away any lessons from Intel's fallout with OLPC (One Laptop Per Child)? I know you said recently that you are going to try and make Windows work on OLPC if you can?
Gates: OLPC hasn't done that well. Emerging markets are growing for PCs, people are doing cheap PCs. We've always believed in cheap PCs. If the hardware were free, we'd be happy. We're about the software. We're in literally over 100 countries with special versions of Windows, including Starter Edition. OLPC is nowhere compared to where we are on this thing. If that form factor, some people want to use that, we'll make sure Windows is available on that.

You guys have looked at both low-cost PCs and shown off a phone that then connects up to a TV to act as a low-cost PC. I think you guys are going into trial with that this year?
Gates: That's called Phone Plus. Our lab in China is doing some very interesting work. That general idea is that as you could walk around with the phone that it could use any big screen that shows up, that's going to be just standard stuff. The phone will be the entry PCs for a lot of people.

The biggest thing in developing markets is the shared PC where you go into the library or the school and you share it. There you want a decent keyboard and a decent machine. We started learning with that, it was five years ago that we rolled out PCs to every library in the United States. We went to Chile, Mexico, Botswana.

Broadband is what's hard. What good is any PC now without broadband or without an Internet connection? It's not worth all that much. When somebody says I am going to XYZ country, ask them what the connectivity strategy is. That's the expensive part. Not the hardware, not the software. It's either the training, the special content, or the broadband.

One of the neat things about the phone-to-display thing is it's got some developing country applications, but I imagine that's something that is interesting from a rich-world perspective.
Gates: You'll have displays, not just TV-type displays. There's no reason the software shouldn't be agile in terms of display format. We're getting that even because the phones themselves, the displays in the phones are going up to a pretty good size. Some of that will be wireless. That's not quite sorted out but it will be over the next year or so.

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About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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