Photo: Wikimedia Commons
In 2012, Microsoft and its hardware partners will team up to deliver brand new $250 computers to low-income families.It’s part of a new program run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that aims to expand the number of Americans with broadband Internet access.
The program, Connect to Compete, was first announced last month. To qualify, families must have at least one enrolled in the free school lunch program — about 15 million families will qualify.
Those families will get two years of heavily discounted ($10/month) broadband Internet access from participating cable providers, including Comcast, Cablevision, Charter, Cox, Time-Warner, and others. They’ll also be able to buy a $150 refurbished PC from Redemtech so they can actually take advantage of that high-speed access.
But starting next year, Microsoft will make a line of brand new low-cost PCs available through the program. The PCs will start at $250, and will include Windows and Office, as well as educational software.
The devil is in the details, and Microsoft isn’t talking about hardware partners, specs, or exactly which versions of its software will be on the computers (it could be the no-frills Starter Edition).
What’s in it for Microsoft and the cable companies? FCC chairman Julius Genachowski told us, “It’s a win-win for our overall economy and for all companies in the broadband economy. If we can get broadband adoption to 100% we will have doubled the size of the online market in the U.S.”
It could also help Microsoft test the market for a very low-cost PC.