As I’ve previously mentioned, Portugal is getting into netbooks big time. The country’s government is subsidizing the cost of about half a million computers based on the Intel Classmate PC design and making them available to students for just about 50 Euros or $70. It costs about 285 Euroes of nearly $400 to pick up a retail version of the same netbook.
The country is also exporting a million laptops to Venezuala.
Microsoft is sweetening the pot a bit by making a low cost version of Windows XP and Microsoft Office available. The Portuguese netbooks are known as “Magellan” laptops, and so Microsoft has labeled it software package the Magellan suite. It’s not clear how much Microsoft is charging for the netbooks, but it’s probably safe to say not very much.
There’s certainly some altruism in play here. But it’s also worth noting that Microsoft has a vested interest in getting Windows and Office software into the hands of as many students as possible. As the OLPC project and netbook makers like Asus and Acer have demonstrated, you don’t need Windows to run a computer and you don’t need MS Office to edit a text document. But it’s not hard to compete with free software when you’re the market leader and you’re willing to practically give your software away to some clients.