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Microsoft’s CellPhone-y Plan

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The great thing about World Economic Summit at Davos is that as a CEO you can say just about anything, after all it is about the grand vision and the perfect future. Never mind reality! Today, there is big hoopla over Microsoft’s grand vision of offering cellphone for the poor. A phone that will connect to television monitor and a keyboard … blah, blah, blah! In other words a very PC centric view of the world, that assumes “poor” care about a PC, or PC-styled connectivity to the Internet. Vaporware?

“Everyone is going to have a cellphone,” Mr. Mundie said, noting that in places where TV’s are already common, turning a phone into a computer could simply require adding a cheap adaptor and keyboard. Microsoft has not said how much those products would cost. Mr. Mundie said there was no firm timing for the cellphone strategy, but that the company had encouraged such innovations in the past by building prototypes for consumer electronics manufacturers.

Nokia, Motorola and TI – companies with real mobile experience, are developing and selling sub-$50 phones for making phone calls, first and foremost. To many, the first phone call is real connectivity.In Asia, because there was low penetration of PCs, the handset became the Internet terminal, and has spawned a whole ecosystem of applications and devices catering to that. The game changing Microsoft cellphone of course would need to figure out how to use ultra-cheap chips that can run bloated MS software. Carlo Longino over on Techdirt points out that the impetus for the device is Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop. Of course, since it doesn’t Use Microsoft Software!

(Check out my Business 2.0 story on Novatium which is building cheap computers that sit right between Negroponte and Microsoft’s grand vision.)

6 Responses to “Microsoft’s CellPhone-y Plan”

  1. Companies such as Quasar ( are working on $10-$25 cellphones (using TI’s low-cast ref designs). These cellphones if bluetooth enabled, can really do what Gates dreams of – use TVs, use keyboards.

    I really believe this is the way to the future. The $100 laptop is over rated. It is an attempt to force-fit an over-priced product to a third-world market.

    The low-cost ($10-$25) cellphone with bluetooth and TV connection is the real way forward.

  2. I’m betting the world’s poor are more worried about clean water, vaccines, basic education, labor rights, etc.

    Maybe the geniuses at Davos can also figure out a plan for the world’s poor to all get a piece of cake?

  3. I think that discussing alternatives in delivering computing to the poor completely misses the point. There are so many people in developing nations who dont have access to cheap computing, each with different needs. Going with a PC model, a phone model or anything in between – bring it all on. See my related post

  4. Om,
    You couldn’t have summed this better. Just one question comes to mind, did any of these ppl see what these “poor” need ? Its resembling a turf battle where MS doesn’t want to lose out on these potential next generation users.