On his whistle-stop trip to the Chinese Mainland, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has announced several initiatives designed to increase Internet access and eliminate pirated software.
Gates was on his first visit to Shenzhen, one of China's SEZs (special economic zones), areas established by the government to encourage foreign companies to set up businesses there and invest in the region.
As expected, he officially announced the Venus project, a set-top box based on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system and specially designed for the Chinese market, according to a Microsoft statement.
The set-top box was developed in China at Microsoft's Research and Development Center in Beijing and is designed to enable Internet access through devices including televisions. The announcement was backed by nine companies, including local PC and handheld maker Legend Holdings as well as Mainland electronics giant Hai'er Group Co. and the Acer Advanced Labs Inc. unit of Taiwanese vendor Acer Group. Microsoft signed an Internet software and services deals with the nine vendors.
The aim of Venus is to boost the numbers of people able to access the Internet on the Mainland. According to the China Internet Network Information Center, last year there were 2.1 million Internet users on the Mainland, a tiny proportion of the country's population of 1.2 billion people.
Gates also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China's State Economic and Trade Commission for the promotion of Internet technology in state-owned enterprises in China, the Microsoft statement said.
The commission was involved in another signing ceremony with the Microsoft head, this one related to the Government On-Line initiative which was also signed by China Telecom Ltd. and more than 40 Chinese government ministries, according to the Microsoft statement said. Together, the partners will create a software infrastructure based on Microsoft's Windows NT operating system, its relational database SQL Server 7.0 and the company's groupware software Exchange Server 5.5. in order to attempt to improve the efficiency of Mainland government departments and facilitate the sharing of information.
In the area of intellectual property rights, Gates signed an agreement with the People's Bank of China (PBOC) to protect such rights and promote the use of legal software, the Microsoft statement said. The bank will now license all its Microsoft software for use across its departments and branch offices under one single contract. Microsoft will provide the bank with training, consultancy and support, and will assist it in addressing the year 2000 problem.
Gates also signed an antipiracy agreement with the Shenzhen Municipal Government.
Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or via the Internet at http://www.microsoft.com/.