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Windows XP 'Lite' Slated for 5 Countries

Microsoft is moving ahead with plans to introduce a stripped-down, low-cost version of Windows XP in countries where economic realities make the full release of Windows with its hefty price tag a hard sell.

The 12-month pilot program has previously been referred to informally as Windows XP Lite. On Wednesday, Microsoft announced the official name as Windows XP Starter Edition. It will ship on new, low-costs desktop PCs from OEMs and Microsoft OEM distributors in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Versions in two other countries will be announced later. At the end of the pilot phase, Microsoft may introduce similar starter editions in other countries.

Microsoft executives say the program is an outgrowth of collaboration with governments in what it calls developing technology markets. All three countries are in the Asia/Pacific region, where software piracy and government support for open source operating systems are threats to the expansion of Windows.

Microsoft declined to specify pricing. "Windows XP Starter Edition will be the most affordable Windows operating system offered to date," Microsoft said in a statement. "Specific pricing information will be made available to participating PC OEMs and Microsoft Authorized OEM Distributors in the coming weeks."

In North America, the list price for Windows XP Home Edition is $199 for a new edition, and $99 for an upgrade. While antitrust critics argued that Microsoft used its monopoly position to keep prices artificially high, the argument did not catch fire outside techie circles in the United States, where consumers are accustomed to dropping the equivalent of the upgrade price on a monthly cable television bill.

But it's a different story in many Asian countries. According to the Economist, a weekly newsmagazine that maintains international economic statistics, the U.S. gross domestic product, a common measure of a country's economy, is valued at more than $10 trillion. In 2002, the Indonesian economy amounted to $172 billion, the Malaysian economy to $155 billion and the Thai economy to $127 billion. Another measure, GDP per head, provides a very rough estimate of individual consumer's spending power in a country. GDP per head is $36,406 in the United States, $807 in Indonesia, $3,869 in Malaysia and $1,990 in Thailand.

In addition to the price reduction, the operating system will also have reduced functionality.

Aimed at first-time computer users, Windows XP Starter Edition will be limited to three programs and three Windows per program running concurrently. Screen resolution will be set to a maximum of 800x600. The stripped-down OS also won't support home networking, shared printers or multiple user accounts. The operating system will include many of the security technologies introduced in Windows XP Service Pack 2, which became available this month.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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