In what initially sounds like an altruistic gesture towards developing nations -- but is in reality a shrewd business move to both compete with pirates and get kids hooked on Windows -- Microsoft will be selling a package containing full-fledged versions (well, kinda) of its OS and office software to eligible countries for a mere three-bucks-a-pop. Starting sometime in the second half of the year, less-developed nations that agree to provide free computers for their school systems will be able to participate in the latest effort in Microsoft's Unlimited Potential initiative, which nets them a bundle containing XP Starter Edition, Office Home and Student 2007, as well as various other educational titles (fingers crossed for Flight Simulator). Of course, by putting this restriction on participants, Microsoft is obviously forcing them to purchase PCs that work with its ecosystem of products -- and more importantly, that aren't the OLPC XO (Classmates are cool, though). The company will also benefit somewhat from governments that tend to buy their software from shady sources, although pirates can rest assured that they'll still be able to thrive on the patronage of individuals and private firms. So make no mistake about it, the war for the hearts and minds of the next wave of PC users is most definitely on, and while Bill Gates may espouse the many societal benefits of bridging the digital divide, Microsoft's Orlando Ayala made the company's intentions crystal clear when he told Reuters "This is not a philanthropic effort: this is a business."

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Microsoft will sell $3 software to developing countries