Computers for emerging markets and emerging segments has an interview of Bill Poole from Microsoft ‘At Microsoft, Seeking the next billion computers’ .

The company has a number of efforts under way in the area, from the Starter Editions of Windows XP and Vista, to shared computers for classrooms, to research into turning a cell phone into a low-cost computer by connecting it with a large display. Poole said the last effort, which has garnered a fair bit of interest, is moving from the drawing board to reality.  

The most interesting observation — and there are many good ones here — is

When I started looking at this about five years ago, I thought that affordability was the biggest challenge. It turns out that affordability is actually the third on the list of issues. The first one turns out to be relevance. That means bringing a product to market that really meets the needs of somebody in an emerging segment–be it in rural India or in urban China or down the street, here in San Francisco. Are we building a technology that is relevant to the specific needs and problems that they have?

The second thing is to look at whether the technology is accessible to them. Can they find a place to buy it? Can they get support? Can they get broadband connectivity to bring them into the world of the Web? And then the third thing is affordability.

This observation is the key.  While many, including (surprisingly) a well known Professor from the top university, focus on affordability, Poole clearly states that rlevance and access are the first two factors.  It is heartening to see that such efforts are in place.

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