Directors of Microsoft’s emerging markets are in town this week for a meeting, so the company invited a handful of local journalists to dinner for an update on the company’s “Unlimited Potential” program.
Headed by former Windows client boss Will Poole, Unlimited Potential is spreading the PC gospel to developing countries and populations that have yet to embrace computing.
Its goal is to reach an estimated 5 billion people who can’t afford or access computers and the Internet, including 1 billion that it hopes to reach by 2015.
The group is a grab bag of researchers, product people and marketers spread around the world.
They’re working with governments, schools and non-profit groups on projects, including pay-as-you-go computers and special versions of Windows. They’re also testing new systems, such as one for handling money workers abroad can use to send money home, and another that lets multiple students work together on a single computer.
I was surprised by how sympathetic Poole is to the One Laptop Per Child project led by the MIT Media Lab that has developed an inexpensive PC for developing countries. Poole said he’s particularly impressed by the device’s display, which switches from color to grayscale when it’s used in bright light, although he’s still not enthusiastic about its using open-source software.
He suggested people keep their eyes open for new low-cost PCs from vendors such as Asus.
Intel is also planning to talk up new designs for emerging-market computers next week at its fall developer conference in San Francisco.