Microsoft Starts Up XP Starter Edition

As reported by BetaNews in July, Microsoft has expanded its initiative to provide a low-cost distribution of Windows in Asia. Although the program was originally directed exclusively toward social welfare programs in Thailand and Indonesia, it will now be expanded to Malaysia. The software will be available in all three countries by October.

CNET News.com is also reporting rumors that Brazil, Jordan and Russia have also been targeted for expansion.

Windows XP Starter Edition is a stripped down, localized, no-thrills distribution of the operating system that includes rich tutorials to assist first time PC buyers. Microsoft has designed the software with a direct upgrade path to the full version of Windows.

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"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."

Thailand's Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) program was chartered by Thailand's government to assist lower income citizens to be able to afford and own PCs. Although it initially opted out of ITC, Microsoft shifted its tactics and is now offering pricing incentives, Windows XP Starter Edition and a specialized version of Office XP.

The combined threat posed by Linux and software piracy has been the Sword of Damocles hanging over Microsoft's head. The first batch of ITC subsidized PCs came preloaded with Linux TLE and the OpenOffice.org productivity suite. Linux TLE is a Thai language specific build of Linux that has gained a foothold in the South East Asian marketplace, where, prior to Windows XP Starter Edition, open source software was once the only viable alternative to software piracy.

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