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'India has consumer opportunity'

With the parent having invested over bn dollars in India, he provides strategic direction to the corporation's five distinct business units in India.

india Updated: Aug 24, 2005 18:59 IST

With Bill Gates once again set to come to India, what has changed over the last three years since his last visit here?
Our vision is to be relevant to a billion people. It is our goal to provide information access to the deepest of rural India. And all this while growing our business here. Remember that this is the centre of gravity of the world technology industry, after all there are a million developers here. We need to grow our footprint, just as we want to be one of the most admired companies here. I took over 16 months ago and there are several initiatives that we have rolled out. India presents a huge consumer opportunity in the PC and beyond it. That is why we have set up an integrated Consumer Group to deliver convergence in Indian living rooms.

How do you take IT to the masses with PC penetration so poor and the cost of acquisition of a PC still so high?
Can you get to a 10K PC or do you want to drive PC adoption, this remains the biggest dilemma. The true balance between desirability and affordability has to be worked out. You will be surprised that only a third of the Indian creamy layer owns a PC. Conversely, many near the bottom of the pyramid have cellphones, TVs and two-wheelers. We are searching for the connect with the middle ground.

Now people are claimed to have cracked the 10K PC, I think MS is also involved...
It is a question of a price point. Cellphones saw an inflection point with the Rs 500 price point. My belief is that the killer app is the Internet, whether it is for transactions or messaging. Our objective is to drive connectivity. A lot of optic fibre in India is still dark which needs to be lit up. Delicensing of spectrum will also help. Our play is to create a policy environment where collectively we can crack the 10K PC which works.

Isn't the biggest challenge to MS in India coming from the strong legacy adoption of Unix and Linux?
No, I don't think so, the biggest challenge is non-use of IT and conversion of non-users to IT. Only the other day I saw that we are number 30 in a universe of 30 in a survey which shows us bringing up the rear. The survey deals with IT investments as a percentage of total capital invested. Piracy is another problem. My focus is built around the 3Es -- education, engineering and enforcement.

But you still haven't answered my question on open source?
I think the situation is a lot better than say two years ago. On the desktop, we are doing very well. Every Linux PC that is shipped gets pirated within 48 hours. As far as total cost of ownership is concerned, believe me we are winning. Our wins in the public sector are increasingly giving us the whip hand. Similarly on the security front, Windows has proved to be much better.

The momentum that we have got with e-governance wins is amazing, be it project bhoomi in Karnataka, e-seva in Andhra or Bangalore One. There are 150 e-governance projects working on MS platforms with 11 state governments presently. Rural computing is a thrust area. The Department of Posts win has seen us gain a lot of traction in the economically mobile states.

In India, don't you need to go beyond the PC?
Obviously, cellphones are the hottest growing things in India. As such, we have devices using Windows Mobile aimed at the Enterprise segment. Hutch is a partner and we are in a dialogue with other telcos on this one. Right now this is limited to GSM, but we will do it for CDMA also. It is not about voice anymore, the challenge and opportunity is to develop the cellphone as a platform. Our selling point is to create the first interface with data at an attractive price point. We have set up a team under Jacques Bablon from Redmond in India to work on the Communications sector. There are several questions that need to be answered like the type of content that has to be delivered. We are working on this. Parallely, we are working on the pocket PC. The product development and go to market strategy for the globe will be done here. There is a big push on the home and entertainment division where through IP TV we want to deliver triple play services -voice, video, Internet -- to 20 million households over the next few years. And finally there is the XBox 310 where we hope to beat Sony.

First Published: Aug 24, 2005 18:59 IST