Microsoft taps mobile tech for developing world

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Microsoft taps mobile tech for developing world

Microsoft is betting on mobile phones to bring computing to developing countries.

"The phone is going to be the PC and the PC is going to be the phone," Microsoft chairman Bill Gates declared in his opening keynote at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference in Los Angeles.

Chief research and strategy officer, Craig Mundie, stressed that the mobile phone will become a key part of the company's strategy to bring technology into developing countries.

"People in those rural environments are already buying computers," said Mundie.

"They happen to call them cellphones [mobile phones]."

Mundie suggested that as smartphones continue to evolve into personal computers, the current mobile phone system could become the preferred platform for connecting to the internet while performing tasks that users typically associate with a traditional desktop environment.

Mundie demonstrated a system in which a smartphone environment was used to remotely unlock access to medical care to remote rural areas. Overcoming patient illiteracy, the system used a series of icons to allow the patient to describe symptoms and receive an instant diagnosis and instructions through video clips.

Medical clinics are not the only application that Mundie sees for mobile phones in emerging economies. The mobile phones could also become an avenue for entertainment.

"You may be able to bootstrap a lot of people into an internet-based experience with music and video and some type of creativity application even before we find that they can afford [traditional PCs]."

Microsoft appears to be hedging its bets for emerging economies, as the software maker is also pushing its traditional desktop operating system. Microsoft for instance has teamed up with Intel for its www.vnunet.comand earlier this month unveiled a of Windows XP and Office applications that will be available in select markets.

The software giant however is facing fierce competition from Linux. Most notably, the One Laptop Per Child project is preparing to ship low cost notebook computers powered by the open source operating system to schools in developing nations.

Linux vendor Red Hat last week also unveiled a "www.vnunet.com" targetting computers for small and medium business as well as governments in third world nations.
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