But the primary risk Microsoft faces is that this effort will not be perceived as truly generous but rather more as a Trojan Horse, of trying to get a foot in the door so it can exploit these markets more later, he said. Microsoft is simply taking a page from Gates and his foundation and is now "using some of that extraordinary windfall [from its Windows-Office franchise] to buy back the reputation. Its generosity, but generosity with a purpose. Its generosity, but its also good business," he said.To read more about how Bill Gates is stepping aside to focus on his philanthropy work, click here. "This initiative also involves the creation of products uniquely suited for these communities, and Microsoft is already working hard on making technology more pervasive through pay-as-you go and subscription-type models," he said. Its also time for the industry to come together and do the right thing in ensuring that those communities around the world that cant buy computers or even afford the software for $3 are taken care of, Ayala said. This is something Microsoft will be pushing going forward, he said, as the empowerment of these communities cannot be done by the company alone. Asked if Microsoft plans to involve its partners in this initiative, Ayala said, "Absolutely. I have Intel and AMD and many of the local partners really dying to get involved as those people also live in local communities and want them to do well. "They are really trying to find a framework to fit into, and what unlimited potential provides, frankly, is a framework that shows what we are betting on: transforming education to lead to jobs and opportunities," he said. Ayala will also throw down the gauntlet to summit attendees in his speech, telling them that, so as not to leave their citizens behind, they need to get involved and make the required investments in infrastructure, without which initiatives like this would not succeed. "It is not about charity, but about enabling a new generation of people to be able to contribute to their communities and culture. Some 40 percent of the economy in Asia appears to be informal," Ayala said. Click here to read more about new homes for old PCs. Ayala is also working on an initiative that will take some of the 70 million computers that are retired globally every year and refurbish and redistribute them in developing countries in Africa. Education is a critical component of all this, he said, pointing to the Imagine Cup, an annual technology competition that provides an outlet for students to explore technological and innovative interests outside the classroom. More than 65,000 students from 100 countries competed last year in the event, which lets them compare ideas, gain practical experience and create imaginative solutions that apply to the real world. Registrations are still being accepted for the 2007 competition, with more than 100,000 students signed up so far, he said. Gates will also announce on April 19 plans to extend its resource commitment to the Microsoft Innovation Centers over the next two years, and its intent to open and support 200 centers in an additional 25 countries by 2009. The current network of 110 centers serves 100 communities in 60 nations by providing local software communities with a set of programs and services to expand work force skills, create jobs, strengthen innovation and improve competitiveness. Microsoft also plans five new Partnerships for Technology Access programs in Argentina, Botswana, Chile, China and Egypt. The programs bring together governments, technology companies, banks and nongovernmental organizations to help increase access to PCs and use technology to build economic and social opportunity in developing economies and other underserved parts of the world. There are now 50 such programs in various stages worldwide. Microsoft is also creating an employability portal that will be launched in India by the end of 2007. It will help the countrys nearly 400,000 engineering students who graduate each year improve their technology, business and communication skills through online training and verification. The project could be broadened to more regions over time. Gates will also announce an alliance with the Asian Development Bank that will see them work together to enhance the competitiveness and sustainable economic development of the Asia-Pacific region. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.
But, to Ayala, Microsoft has 35 years of experience providing solutions to communities and is now looking to expand this even further by drawing in its 700,000 existing global partners, as well as forming new partnerships with local NGOs, multilateral agencies, development agencies and local communities.