Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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9/4/2006
09:40 AM
Paul McDougall
Paul McDougall
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Indian Schools Ditch Microsoft For Linux, Kill Golden Goose

Cows are sacred in India, but apparently not geese--especially the gilded variety. Proving that $1.7 billion doesn't go as far as it used to in winning over foreign governments--that's the amount Bill Gates last year pledged to invest in India--a school district in the country is set to rid its computers of Microsoft Windows and install Linux instead.

Cows are sacred in India, but apparently not geese--especially the gilded variety. Proving that $1.7 billion doesn't go as far as it used to in winning over foreign governments--that's the amount Bill Gates last year pledged to invest in India--a school district in the country is set to rid its computers of Microsoft Windows and install Linux instead.How smart are these Indian officials in messing with the Golden Goose--i.e. foreign tech investment from the West--that has turned the country into the world's IT shop and generated millions of jobs that by local standards are well-paying? Not very.

For now, the Windows ban applies only in schools in the southern Indian state of Kerala, which is run by communists and isn't representative of the pro-business environment that prevails in most other parts of the country (Kerala officials also recently sought to ouster Coke and Pepsi from their turf).

If you're an Indian worker hoping for a ride on the tech gravy train, you're probably hoping this kind of knee-jerk anti-capitalism doesn't become widespread in the country. Because it's the kind of behavior that could ultimately convince Microsoft and other U.S. computer companies to take their billions and go elsewhere.

And while taking on Microsoft might gratify the egos of Kerala's far-left lawmakers, I'm not sure it helps the 1.5 million school kids affected by the decision. There's a much greater chance they'll end up working for Microsoft than some local Linux distributor, so they might as well be familiar with the product.

This dustup could also hurt the local economy in Kerala. So-called tier-one Indian tech hubs like Bangalore and Mumbai are facing rising costs and high worker turnover. That's leading many Western companies, including Microsoft, to take a closer look at secondary cities for their next round of investment. One such candidate is Cochin, on Kerala's historic Malabar Coast. But if I'm Microsoft, my money is going elsewhere.

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