Microsoft to test education PC in India

Microsoft is testing an education PC and education channel on MSN, which will first be introduced in India

Microsoft plans to start testing a new education PC called IQ PC and an education channel on its MSN portal in India next month.

The India launch of the IQ PC and education channel will be the first worldwide. It is part of Microsoft's "Unlimited Potential" program, which aims to use technology to increase the reach of education, said a spokeswoman for Microsoft India on Wednesday.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates announced the Unlimited Potential program in April.

The new education PC, which is a combination of online and offline content, is likely to be priced at about Indian Rupees 21,000 (US$513). It runs on a Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) processor, and comes bundled with software from both Microsoft and local partners offering educational software.

Microsoft also announced Wednesday the launch of the MSN IQ Beta Education Channel, which will be a repository of educational and "edutainment" content. Students will have access online to curriculum, tutoring, competitive exam coaching, entertainment, references and counseling, the company said.

Students will be able to access the education channel through the IQ PC and from shared PCs at Internet cafes, the spokeswoman said.

Microsoft has partnered with Indian PC makers Zenith Computers of Mumbai and Wipro of Bangalore. Selecting AMD as a partner for the pilot program was only coincidental and Microsoft is also working with Intel on other similar initiatives, the spokeswoman said.

"There is a lot more coming in this area from Microsoft," the spokeswoman said. For example, the company has already trained over 100,000 teachers in India on using computers in education through its Project Shiksha, she said.

Microsoft Research in Bangalore is also working on technologies that will make computers more accessible and affordable to students, and has developed a technology called MultiPoint that allows several computer mice to be used with a PC simultaneously. This technology is targeted at schools in India and other countries that cannot afford to give each student a PC.

The concept of the IQ PC has been researched extensively by Microsoft, but the company plans to run test programs of the PC and the MSN Education Channel first in Bangalore and Pune, the spokeswoman said. The country-wide roll out will be in November.

"Our focus is on making IT accessible, and affordable, and also relevant by offering content and services relevant to the local requirements," the spokeswoman said.

The IQ PC is not cheap by Indian standards. A number of entry-level PCs are less expensive. However, Microsoft holds that the price will be attractive because of the software, Internet connectivity and other tools and services bundled with the product.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service

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