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Microsoft getting 'em while they're tots

In Singapore, the software powerhouse is now planning to introduce its technology products to school children as young as six.

Grabbing them young--very young--seems to be Microsoft's new strategy in Singapore, where the company plans to introduce its technology to children as young as six.

"We are now working closely with the Singapore government on initiatives for some primary schools," said Andy Zupsic, managing director of Microsoft Singapore, in an interview with CNET Asia. "Our aim is to work with students when they are very young and expose them to our technology, and help them realize their full potential through Microsoft's products."

Students in primary schools are mostly aged six to 12. Without disclosing project specifics, Zupsic said the initiatives could center on interactive online learning.

"Instead of normal textbooks, primary school students can use the Internet as a teacher or virtual mentor," said Zupsic. "Curriculum such as the history of Singapore can also be placed on a Web site, complete with narration to help understanding."

Microsoft has a whole line of software and hardware it can present to Singapore's next generation of computer users, ranging from educational software titles to the Tablet PC and Pocket PC operating systems and MSN, Hotmail and Instant Messenger.

Although educational investments are not new to Microsoft Singapore, previous projects have focused largely on older students from polytechnical schools and universities.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it had invested $46,000 ($80,000 Singapore) in software in Republic Polytechnic's business solutions lab, to encourage the development of enterprise applications. In addition, Microsoft will assist in curriculum development and participate in other joint-development projects with Polytechnic.

Outside Singapore, Microsoft has also made significant educational investments in India. Last November, the Redmond, Wash.-based company launched Project Shikshato raise computer literacy in the populous nation.

As part of the project, the company said it would set up 10 computer centers in partnership with state education departments, and more than 2,000 school labs in cooperation with partners.

The project, which includes teacher and student scholarships, is expected to reach over 80,000 school teachers and 3.5 million students across India.

CNET Asia's Winston Chai reported from Singapore.