Software giant Microsoft isn’t exactly a stranger to the hardware business, having launched into keyboards, mice, cameras and other input devices many years ago, going up against Apple’s iPod with the Zune, and—of course—pushing its Xbox line of video game consoles. But the company which develops the operating systems used on the vast majority of personal computers on the planet has never been in the business of selling computers. Until now.
MIcrosoft has entered a partnership with Zenith and AMD and other companies to test-market Microsoft-branded personal computers in India. Dubbed the “IQ PC,” the systems will be aimed at students, include software from Microsoft and other vendors, and be supplemented with Microsoft online services. The systems will be priced at 21,000 rupees—about $525 USD—and will be offered in a three-month in Pune and Bangalore beginning in July. If customer response is encouraging, the availability of the systems may be expanded later.
“We don’t see any gain in the short term. Our perspective is long term,” Microsoft India chairman Ravi Venkatesan told reporters.
No technical specifications of the systems have been released, save that they are built around AMD Athlon processors and will be manufactured in partnership with Zenith. The systems will be bundled with Microsoft titles including Encarta and Microsoft Works, as well as education-focused products from other partners. Microsoft also plans to provide educational content to Indian students via its MSN Internet portal, and launch a job search service in India aimed at the estimated 400,000 engineers the nation produces every year.
Microoft’s decision to enter the Indian PC market is no doubt spurred by a number of factors, including the desire to tap into what will almost certainly be one of the largest future growth areas for computing products. Research firm IDC recently estimated that India currently boasts about 22 million PC users, which amounts to only about two percent of the nation’s population. If Microsoft can gain mindshare amongst India’s upcoming computer users and professionals while they’re still in school, they’re more likely to bring Microsoft—and its products—with them into their professional lives.