Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates delivers a speech at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in Beijing.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates delivers a speech at the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum in Beijing. - 
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BOB MOON:So while the markets were moving in China, the world's richest man was throwing open his "Windows" in Beijing.That's where Bill Gates announced that Microsoft wants to practically give away its lifeblood operating system at deep discounts for developing nations that provide computers to kids.Discount prices as low as three bucks.

The Microsoft chairman wasn't wearing his foundation hat when he spoke today.As Marketplace's Lisa Napoli reports, this is all about business.

LISA NAPOLI: Bill Gates says that by selling his software cheap, he's hoping to allow people in the developing world to learn technology skills so they can ultimately innovate and create jobs.

Peter Brown of the Free Software Foundation says there's more to it.

PETER BROWN: In fact, this very much reminds me of Nestle giving baby powder to newborns' mothers in the developing world. It appears to be generous at first, but in the long-term it does more damage than good.

Brown says better to give people new to technology software they can alter for their own needs. The whole "teach a man to fish" concept.

BROWN: Do you want to turn people in developing countries into consumers, or do you want to give them the tools with which they can, in fact, develop their own economies?

Danese Cooper is with the Open Source Initiative, a group that advocates free software. She calls today's announcement an acknowledgement that Microsoft realizes its pricing policies don't work.

DANESE COOPER: If you spend time in the developing world, you realize that all software is free right now because of software piracy.

And because the asking price for legal copies in some countries is often twice the typical annual income. Now, the World Trade Organization is cracking down on piracy. And Cooper says Microsoft has to do something to get its product into countries like China and India.

Microsoft already has a billion customers worldwide — and like so many other businesses, it sees that the future is in the East.

In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.