Gates brushes off Linux threat

Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Tuesday brushed off the threat posed by Linux software in Asia and pushed for the use of the Windows operating system in Malaysia.

Gates, who is in Malaysia for a one-day visit to meet Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, expressed Microsoft’s willingness to help the country improve computer proficiency and boost its information technology sector.

“I was able to explain our commitment to work with the government and help in the best way we can,” he told reporters.

“We had a good discussion and I am sure that there will be more discussions in the future,” he added.

Asked if the increasing popularity of the Linux operating system in Asia, the world’s fastest-growing personal-computer market, poses a concern, Gates said: “In terms of Microsoft software, it is being used very heavily around the world and we are very pleased in the partnership that we formed in Asia.”

Unlike expensive Windows operating systems, Linux is available for free over the internet while piracy of Windows software in Asia is rampant.

Asked if Microsoft will expand its cheaper starter edition of Windows XP to China and India, Gates said the company is prepared to discuss the countries’ requests.

“We will talk with other governments whether they have a programme to get very very low-cost computers for their citizens. And when they have a programme like that, we will [discuss] which of the versions of Windows will make sense there.”

Gates said business people mostly use Windows Pro and home users use Windows Home, and Microsoft is flexible “in twinning the versions to meet any government programmes”.

Microsoft has created a new, cheaper version that is in between Windows CE and Windows Home for Malaysia and Thailand, he said.

Earlier, Gates and Malaysia’s Education Minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, signed a five-year, 10-million ringgit ($2,6-million) educational programme funded by Microsoft called Partners in Learning.

The programme is a part of Microsoft’s global initiative to increase access to technology tools and programmes to empower teachers and students to realise their full potential.

Gates, the world’s richest man worth an estimated $46-billion and a renowned philanthropist, has launched similar education programmes in 11 other countries including India, China, Japan and Australia.

He declined to comment on the European Union’s decision to suspend anti-trust measures against Microsoft.

“That is a legal process. It will go on and on,” he said.

Microsoft won a reprieve on Sunday from a hard-hitting anti-trust ruling by the EU after the union executive said it has suspended its punishment against the United States software giant.

The decision means Microsoft can now escape a deadline to offer a European version of its Windows operating system stripped of the popular Media Player audio and video program. — Sapa-AFP

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