Microsoft: Find Another Billion Computer Users

Will Poole is tasked with leading Microsoft's push into emerging markets like China, South America, and Africa. His job is simple, really: Find Microsoft another billion computer users. He outlined his approach in a question and answer meeting, touching on interesting approaches to get technology to very poor and isolated places, including making a workable computer out of readily available electronic devices.

(Q.) How close is that to being a product? You take the phone that people are already getting, hook it up to the TV they already have and you've got a computer. The phones that we use today in the U.S. certainly are capable of that from a technology perspective. How close is that?
Poole: Well, it's still got a ways to go. We've got it in development in China right now. We've got a manufacturing partner signed on with us, and our group in Beijing is working quite hard on it. It'll be in trials I think within a year and we'll see how people respond to it. It's a new concept in the sense of trying to bring together PC and phone technology in a lower-cost device. It's not something that you're going to see a businessperson in a developed market using while walking down the street. We're trying to really target the needs of a broader population and so we're very excited about the opportunity there, but time will tell.

It's an interesting interview. Poole expressed interest in the One Laptop Per Child Project, but cellphone penetration and use is probably a more important and useful milestone in the advance of technology in out-of-the-way places now.