Microsoft announced Wednesday it would offer a low-cost starter edition of its Windows XP operating system in Asia starting in October, a move designed to help the company hold onto market share in the face of competition and software piracy.
Industry analysts have described the launch of what already has been dubbed “XP Lite” – with lower-resolution graphics, fewer networking options and less capacity for multitasking than full XP versions – as a pre-emptive move against Linux.
From Microsoft’s press release:
Microsoft Corp. today announced a five-country pilot program for WindowsÂ® XP Starter Edition, a low-cost introduction to the MicrosoftÂ® Windows XP operating system designed for first-time desktop PC users in developing technology markets. Designed as a result of Microsoft’s ongoing collaborations with international governments, the Windows XP Starter Edition Pilot Program is part of Microsoft’s comprehensive commitment to enable individuals, communities and countries to gain access to the technology tools, skills and innovation they need to realize their potential. Windows XP Starter Edition will offer an affordable and easy-to-use entry point to the Windows family of products that is tailored to local markets, in local languages, and is compatible with a wide range of Windows-based applications and devices.
Starting in October 2004, Windows XP Starter Edition will ship on new, low-cost desktop PCs available through PC original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Microsoft OEM distributors in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Language versions will be available in Thai, Malay and Indonesian.
Windows XP Starter Edition will be the most affordable Windows operating system offered to date. Specific pricing information will be made available to participating PC OEMs and Microsoft Authorized OEM Distributors in the coming weeks. The remaining two countries in the five-country pilot program will be announced later this year following final discussions with governments and partners.
Microsoft will continue to work closely with participating governments to ensure that the pilot program is a success. The company is establishing a 12-month pilot phase to study and evaluate the benefits created for first-time PC users, software and hardware industry partners, participating governments, and Microsoft. After the 12-month pilot phase, Microsoft may introduce a local version of Starter Edition in additional developing markets in collaboration with governments committed to improving access to technology for their citizens.
“Microsoft Windows XP Starter Edition demonstrates Microsoft’s commitment to collaborate with the Thai government to provide significant benefits for our citizens and their future,” said Dr. Surapong Suebwonglee, ICT minister of Thailand. “The development of Windows XP Starter Edition represents an encouraging step forward to help bridge the digital divide in our country by making software more available and more relevant for first-time PC users.”
The Benefits of Windows at a Lower Price Point
Windows XP Starter Edition offers a simple introduction to personal computing for consumers interested in buying an affordable first computer for their homes. The technology includes the following key features:
- Localized and tailored support. Windows XP Starter Edition features a redesigned help system, called My Support, that includes a built-in, detailed Getting Started Guide. In addition, Windows XP Starter Edition includes a supplemental CD with local language instructional videos designed for first-time PC users.
- Localized customization. With Windows XP Starter Edition, users can choose from country-specific wallpapers and screensavers with familiar landscapes, flags and geography-specific traditional designs.
- Preconfigured settings. Windows XP Starter Edition will help reduce confusion regarding setup options for entry-level users by preconfiguring advanced settings and enabling the Windows Firewall by default.
- Simplified task management. With Windows XP Starter Edition, first-time home PC users can have up to three programs and three windows per program running concurrently. Further simplification of the operating system includes the display resolution set to 800×600 maximum and no support for PC-to-PC home networking, sharing printers across a network or more advanced features such as the ability to establish multiple user accounts on a single PC.
Windows XP Starter Edition includes basic Windows XP features that allow users to take advantage of computing experiences such as the following that are popular with most first-time desktop PC users:
- Internet connectivity, so users can access the Internet and browse the Web
- Software and hardware compatibility, with a wide range of software applications and hardware devices such as printers, speakers and cameras
- The intuitive Windows user interface that makes it easy for users to get up to speed quickly
- Advanced security technologies delivered in Windows XP Service Pack 2 that will allow users to stay up to date and be more secure
- Windows Messenger, which enables users to easily communicate with friends and family through real-time text messaging
- Digital photography support with easy-to-use tools to help users store and share photos with family and friends, or make their own prints with one of the many printers supported by Windows XP
- Windows MediaÂ® Player 9 Series, which allows users to listen to music and watch videos
Opportunity Created Through the Windows Ecosystem
In addition to the social benefits of digital inclusion, Windows XP Starter Edition also creates economic opportunities for system builders and ISVs that are partnering with local governments to deliver a tailored and localized solution built on the Windows platform.
Building Opportunity for Individuals and Communities
The Windows XP Starter Edition Pilot Program further builds on Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to deliver innovative programs that enable individuals, communities and nations to reach their potential by providing the technologies and education to become part of the global digital ecosystem. In addition to Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft recently announced the Local Language Program, a global initiative to partner with governments to localize Windows in 40 regional languages within the next year, which will double the number of languages supported by Windows. In addition, global programs such as Partners in Learning (PiL) and Unlimited Potential (UP) provide comprehensive IT curriculum development, training and access to technology in schools as well as aid work-force development by providing technology skills training through community technology and learning centers. Together, the PiL and UP programs aim to provide IT skills training to individuals in underserved communities around the world.
“Technology serves as a catalyzing force for economic and social change around the world, but too many countries still lack basic digital skills and access,” said Maggie Wilderotter, senior vice president of the Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft. “By providing a technology solution that is low-cost, tailored and localized, and delivered in a manner that meets country-specific needs, we hope to create opportunities for more global communities to realize the boundless social and economic potential of the digital ecosystem.”
“Microsoft is excited about announcing Windows XP Starter Edition in Thailand,” said Andrew McBean, general manager of Microsoft Thailand. “We have been honored to work together with the Thai government to deliver a tailored and localized offering for first-time users. These efforts have been guided by a process of ongoing collaboration and feedback from industry, governments and consumers.”