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Bill opens funds floodgates
- Microsoft’s $ 400m investment to be largest outside US; Hyderabad centre to be expanded

New Delhi, Nov. 12: Microsoft chief Bill Gates today pledged $ 400 million (Rs 2,000 crore) for the development of information technology in India with a major share of it allocated to expand the software giant’s ‘dot net’ strategy along with Indian partners.

The investment is the largest it will be making anywhere in the world outside the US. “India is of strategic importance as its developer and skill base continues to grow,” said Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation.

The software giant will invest $ 100 million over a period of three years in the India Development Centre and another $ 20 million for Project Siksha, which is aimed at accelerating computer literacy in India. The remaining $ 280 million will be devoted to the development of skills around the ‘dot net’ platform in India and increase business opportunities for Indian companies by leveraging Microsoft product development.

The Hyderabad-based India Development centre will scale up its operations and ramp up the team strength to 500 in three years. “It has been successful for us and we are very pleased with the projects that have come out of there,” Gates said. The centre has so far filed for 12 patents, and four more will be lodged this year.

Gates also announced Microsoft’s decision to extend the Windows XP local language support in Bengali and Malayalam. Such local language support is already available in nine other Indian languages —Hindi, Sanskrit, Konkani, Marathi, Tamil, Gurmukhi, Telugu, Kannada, and Gujarati.

Under the partnership programme, Microsoft will work with Indian partners like Satyam, Wipro, Infosys and others to develop ‘dot net’ ready solutions and devise go-to-market strategies to offer these solutions in the global market.

The program also aims at increased business opportunities for Indian companies to work with Microsoft product development groups, product support services (PSS) and premier services (PS) and business unit IT groups.

Rajiv Kaul, managing director of Microsoft Corporation India, said: “There will be need for strong industry partnerships to help India realise its potential in the digital decade. We are excited to kick start this with the huge investments announced today. This will go a long way in empowering all communities including customers, partners, academicians and developers.”

Earlier, Gates informed communications minister Pramod Mahajan of his company’s decision to contribute $ 1 million for the Media Lab Asia project. He also announced a grant of $ 20 million to help trainers in the e-learning programme — also known as Shiksha — learn their ropes. Under the project, about 80,000 teachers and three and a half million students are expected to be trained between a period of 3-5 years.

The collaboration will be done in partnership with the department of information technology. Microsoft will partner with state education departments to set up 10 Microsoft IT Academy Centres and collaborate with more than 2,000 partner-driven school labs in five years.

As part of this project, the company will sponsor teacher and student scholarships to recognise teachers committed to deliver effective IT education and students for driving innovation through technology.

The Microsoft chief dismissed the threat from open source software particularly Linux and said Mirosoft products were much more advanced and do not focus only on the development of operating system.

On Wednesday Gates is supposed to meet bankers as part of his visit to Mumbai.

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