In a move that shows just how much pressure is being put on Microsoft’s Office monopoly, uh, massive market share, Bill Gates (billg) has announced a plan that he hopes will get Office onto another Billion or so desktops.

There is some speculation that the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) program and it’s use of Open Source has had some effect on Microsoft’s plans in emerging markets. If enough of the OLPC project’s systems are distributed and they seem likely to be, and Microsoft doesn’t have a competing offer, it could well change the balance of power in the desktop and office suite market globally.

Microsoft’s Student Innovation Suite (for $3 US or equivalent) contains Windows XP Starter Edition, Office Home and Student 2007, Windows Live Mail Desktop and various educational products. Included in the $3 price is the software license, but apparently if you want backup/restore disks and documentation, that costs extra. More on this here.

What’s the catch? Apparently the government of the emerging market country needs to pick up half the costs of the computers this is installed or purchased for, though it can be used on refurbished computers, a more reasonably-priced solution.

Of course, you know how we feel, we think that SLED 10 (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) would be a much better way of lengthening the life of legacy or “modest” hardware, it’s available at extremely deep discounts (from a retail price of only $50!) for government markets and contains 90% of what Vista/XP does, at 10% of the price!

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