Microsoft lines up $1.7 b investments for India To expand R&D activities; promote IT literacy

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The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, the Microsoft Chairman, Mr Bill Gates, and Ms Melinda Gates, Co-Founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a meeting in the Capital on Wednesday. Kamal Narang
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, the Microsoft Chairman, Mr Bill Gates, and Ms Melinda Gates, Co-Founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a meeting in the Capital on Wednesday. Kamal Narang

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Dec 7

BETTING heavily on India's IT prowess, the Microsoft Chairman, Mr Bill Gates, today announced an investment of $1.7 billion (Rs 7,858 crore) spread over the next four years to expand its research and development (R&D) activities, and strengthen initiatives aimed at accelerating IT literacy and facilitating affordable access to technology in rural areas.

Microsoft is also planning to grow its India headcount to 7,000 people in the coming 3 to 4 years from the existing 4,000, said Mr Gates, on his fourth visit to India.

"Microsoft will be able to build great products because of the work done by our employees in India and work that we give through our partners. This is the country where percentage increase in our employment figures is going to be absolutely the highest - growing from 4,000 to 7,000 people in the next few years. We are hiring as fast as we reasonably can. We will complement that by the projects that we do with our partners," said Mr Gates, whose company enjoys desktop dominance with its Operating System `Windows' installed in about 95 per cent of PCs sold globally.

Investments in India: About half of the proposed investment would flow into expansion of Microsoft's existing research, product and application development, services and technical support activities that are spearheaded through facilities including Microsoft Research India, Microsoft India Development centre, Microsoft Global Technical Support Centre, Microsoft Global Development Centre India and Microsoft Global Services India.

In all, the investment would flow into creating a digitally inclusive society, strengthening local knowledge economy and expanding marketing infrastructure, besides R&D operations.

Plans outlined today include adoption of 100 schools in six States to provide interactive learning environment that in combination with classroom PC and projectors, would provide an enhanced learning experience for students in local languages.

Microsoft would also support the ongoing efforts of Ministry of Communications and IT to establish 100,000 Common Service Centres by offering products, services, consultancy, training and support.

Windows Starter Edition: It would also work to bring to market the proposed multilingual Windows XP Starter Edition, being built exclusively for India. It is currently available in Hindi and Tamil, but the new multilingual version would support English for the first time.

"On his last visit, Mr Bill Gates had announced Project Bhasha under which Microsoft committed to make Windows and Office available in 14 major Indian languages. Nine have been completed and the rest will be released shortly," the Chairman of Microsoft India, Mr Ravi Venkatesan, said.

The company would also invest in deepening its partnerships with Systems Integrators including TCS, Infosys and Wipro, and work closely with local Independent Software Vendors to build applications and solutions using Microsoft technology and platform.

E-governance centre: Microsoft and National Institute of Smart Governance have entered into a pact to set up an e-governance innovation centre in Delhi to undertake pilots for IT applications including workflow automation and process reengineering in government and use of emerging technologies such as smart devices, RFID, and smart cards in e-governance solutions, he said.

In addition, Microsoft would partner with National Manufacturing Competitive Council to create knowledge networks for Small and Medium Enterprises in manufacturing clusters across India.

Microsoft would set up offices in 33 cities and 700 retail outlets for enhancing market penetration.

Related Stories:
Microsoft to set up Innovation Centre in Bangalore
`India very high on Microsoft priorities' Bill Gates coming next week

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 8, 2005)
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