A Russian mobile-phone operator is the latest service provider to team with Microsoft to offer Windows-based PCs on a subscription basis through the company's Unlimited Potential program.
A partnership with Mobile TeleSystems OJSC (MTS), unveiled Wednesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, is similar to ones that Microsoft already has in place in Mexico and Brazil as part of a plan to bring affordable technology to developing countries.
Through the partnership, Microsoft in June will deliver PCs running Windows Vista that offer built-in mobile broadband access to customers on a subscription basis, rather than requiring customers to pay for them outright. The two companies also are working on a road map to introduce new mobile communications services that can be accessed on those PCs but did not specifically say what those new services will be.
Both the PCs and services will be offered to about 85 million MTS customers in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan, and Belarus as part of the MTS Connect program, the companies said.
The MTS deal is similar to one that Microsoft has with service providers TelMex in Mexico and Telefonica in Brazil to offer low-cost PCs through the Subscription Computing Program, which preceded Unlimited Potential. Eventually, that program became part of Unlimited Potential, through which Microsoft works with community leaders in countries where technology has not yet had a significant impact on businesses and communities.
Unlimited Potential is directly related to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' idea of "creative capitalism," which suggests that companies worldwide work with governments and nonprofits to find ways to be charitable and solve the problems of the poorest people without sacrificing their own business needs. Gates recently outlined this idea in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Analysts and observers have suggested another reason why Microsoft is interested in working with emerging markets on technology efforts: The fight against Linux, which is proving a less expensive and easier-to-access option for people in countries with scant access to technology. Indeed, Unlimited Potential and creative capitalism combine both altruism and business interests, and Microsoft executives have acknowledged the need to foster education and business development to get software like Windows and Office in the hands of people who wouldn't typically be able to afford it.