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Gates To Give Japanese Groups Technology

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates reaffirmed the U.S. software company's commitment to the Japanese market Friday as he kicked off a campaign here to offer some free technology help to nonprofit organizations.

Microsoft Corp. officials will travel to various regions in Japan to teach nonprofit groups ways to hook more easily with donors and let the public know about their services, he said.

"Software empowerment can be used here as well," Gates told reporters at a Tokyo hotel, referring to how software technology can be used to improve education, help the elderly and build a community.

Microsoft, whose business in Japan goes back 20 years, has its share of critics here who tend to focus on its alleged proprietary practices.

Microsoft software dominates the Japanese market as it does with much of the rest of the world. Japanese government agencies have been trying to increase the use of nonproprietary software such as Linux but relies heavily on Microsoft.

The company, based in Redmond, Washington, also boasts key business partnerships in Japan, including those with electronics makers as well as game-software makers.

The one area that Microsoft is still struggling in Japan is in video game consoles, where Japanese rival Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 2 outsells Microsoft offerings, including the latest Xbox 360.

Gates faces a relatively warm reception in this nation, where being called the "the Bill Gates of Japan" is widely viewed as a compliment.

"The key message we have today is that we have more optimism today about the importance of those partnerships and our willingness to invest in those," he said.

Business opportunities in Japan are growing because more consumers are using digital technology to listen to music, share digital photos and carry out other work that use devices other than the personal computer, such as mobile phones and TVs, Gates said.

In the new program to work with nonprofit organizations, Microsoft will get feedback from such groups to develop software for them, the company said. Some of that will be made available free through the Web, it said.

Microsoft has already donated 80 million yen (U.S. $681,000) to nonprofit organizations in Japan since 2002.

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