Microsoft used the unveiling of its Unlimited Potential initiative in India on June 28 to announce the pilot program for a new PC for schoolchildren, known as the IQ PC, in partnership with hardware maker Advanced Micro Devices.
Microsofts Unlimited Potential initiative aims to give an additional billion people access to computers by the year 2015.
The IQ PC will be loaded with a selection of software from Microsoft and partners, including Windows, Office/Works, Encarta, Student 2007 and specialized education solutions.
The content is designed to focus on the key concerns of families, such as learning the English language, tutorials for competitive examinations and ensuring a seamless transition from class work to homework.
But Microsoft is not building or delivering the IQ PC to end users, a spokesperson told eWEEK June 29.
"The IQ PC is one part of a connected learning framework of affordable software and services under the IQ brand, a partnership with numerous hardware and software vendors. The device will be manufactured through OEMs such as Zenith Computers and Wipro and sold through retailers in India," she said.
The PCs will cost 21,000 Indian rupees, or just over $500, and will be available at retail shops and bookshops, as well as from PC retailers, the spokesperson said.
The IQ PC is aimed at school-going children in India, from kindergarten to class 12, and will be built on AMD hardware in partnership with Zenith, the designated OEM. Microsoft and AMD are also working toward collaborating with Wipro to deliver the IQ PC on Wipros ultra-value.
Microsoft also this week announced the launch of the MSN IQ Beta Education Channel, which will be a repository of educational and "edutainment" content that will let students access class curriculum; get online tutoring, competitive exam coaching and online counseling; and access online entertainment. Leading industry personalities will also provide specialized editorial content for the channel.
Microsoft will initially launch both the IQ PC and the Education Channel in Bangalore and Pune on July 1, which will then be rolled out to the rest of India by November.
In a blog posting, Orlando Ayala, senior vice president of Microsofts emerging segments market development group, said that the IQ framework is exciting because it combines online and offline solutions with content tied directly to each stage of a students learning process and growth.
He also stressed, as he did earlier in June in the impoverished African nation of Burkina Faso, that Microsoft cannot do this alone. "Microsoft is catalyzing a network of industry, government and development leaders to form and strengthen partnerships at the local, regional and global level that create the scale necessary to achieve the goals of Unlimited Potential," he said.
"The IQ offerings, for example, are supported and extended by numerous partners with extensive experience and understanding of both education and the India market. In addition to AMD, were working closely with Brilliant Tutorials, Junior Achievement, Pacsoft, Karadi Tales, Gurujiworld, Edurite and TutorVista. You will hear quite a bit more about these and other partnerships Microsoft is forging here in India to deliver truly innovative solutions," Ayala said.
Ravi Venkatesan, chairman of Microsoft India, said at a press conference in Delhi that while the growth of IT penetration in India has been rapid, it is not rapid enough.
But the issue of affordability is critical and goes far beyond low-cost hardware. "Affordable solutions must account for individual needs and means, and use creative ways to deliver technology, through different devices, access models or financing options," Venkatesan said. "It is imperative for technology to be relevant and accessible. Only when we meet these criteria will the adoption of technology grow exponentially. And this is exactly what we seek to deliver through Microsoft Unlimited Potential."