Microsoft Looks to Cell Phones for Poor

Possibly out of a sense of rebuke, Bill Gates talked about his own plan to bring computing to the poor this week at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. Instead of proposing a laptop like Nicholas Negroponte of MIT, Gates says the future of low-cost computing is cell phones.

The phone would use a television set, a keyboard and an adapter to turn a specially designed cell phone essentially into a computer. Microsoft says cell phones are a better route since they are already so ubiquitous.

Some have speculated that Microsoft's decision to enter developing markets is due to the fact that the company was rebuffed over using Windows software on the $100 laptop. One report described Gates as "privately bitter" over the group's decision.

Apple was also turned away when free copies of Mac OS X were offered for the device. However, Negroponte has repeatedly said that those who buy the laptops are free to install whatever operating system they wished.

The $100 laptop has already received the approval of the United Nations, and several governments and groups have expressed interest in placing large-scale orders. Thus, Microsoft would have its work cut out for it in both selling and competing with the laptop solution.

The revealing of the Microsoft plan concerns some who feel any fight that would result from two competing solutions could take away from the basic point of the entire initiative.

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