"Microsoft battles low-cost rival for Africa", by Steve Stecklow (Wall Street Journal) is a fascinating account that discusses the attempts by Microsoft to make its Windows software a fixture in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the company's tactics to ward off competition from software based on the Linux open source model. He writes, among other things:
"Critics say Microsoft's efforts to outflank Linux are steering cash-strapped governments away from the cheapest, most sensible solution. They say Microsoft has been locking African government agencies into costly, multiyear agreements to license its software. "African governments cannot afford long-term licensing contracts," says Nnenna Nwakanma of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, a Ghanaian-based nonprofit. The money, she says, would be better spent on training people to use computers and fostering homegrown software development.What is interesting is the way in which the battle between proprietary software and open source products is being fought out in economies in which financial resources are scarce, competition law of little apparent relevance and market forces at local level vulnerable to government pressures.
Microsoft says its pricing in Africa is fair, and that the company is investing heavily in community projects across the continent. "We believe we can help improve the lives of millions of people and potentially grow our own business in the long term," says Thomas N. Hansen, Microsoft's general manager for the region".