Microsoft takes Windows XP Starter Edition to Brazil

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday plans to announce that it will offer a simplified and lower-priced version of Windows XP in Brazil.

The announcement will mark the expansion into a sixth market for Windows XP Starter Edition. Microsoft already said it will offer the product in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia and India. The software is not sold in boxed versions, but installed on cheap PCs designed for first time PC users.

Household computer ownership rate, according to Microsoft:

  • US – 60 per cent
  • West Europe – 30 per cent
  • Russia and China – less than 5 per cent
  • India – less than 2 per cent

Windows XP Starter Edition is part of Microsoft’s efforts to take on the growing threat of Linux and piracy, which is common in developing markets. The limited, cheaper version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system (OS) offers localized support and customization options, preconfigured settings and simplified task management.

The starter OS lacks support for advanced features such as home networking, sharing printers across a network or the ability to establish multiple user accounts on a single PC. It also limits the number of applications that can run at a time to three. Analysts at Gartner Inc. have dismissed it, saying it fails to meet the most basic needs of users.

Brazil is one of the countries where open source has been getting traction, with the government promoting Linux products. In 2003, Brazil signed a letter of intent with IBM Corp. to develop initiatives that will promote the use of Linux in the South American country.

Microsoft has identified emerging markets as a major sales opportunity partly because PC penetration in those countries is low. In the U.S. about 60 per cent of households have a PC, in Western Europe about 30 per cent, but in India the figure is below two per cent, while Russia and China are below five per cent, Microsoft has said.

Windows XP Starter Edition is a pilot program. Microsoft plans to study user reaction over a 12-month period and also gather feedback from software and hardware industry partners, and participating governments. After the 12-month pilot phase, Starter Edition may be offered in additional markets, Microsoft has said. Microsoft did not say when the Brazilian version of Windows XP Starter Edition will be available. The company will provide more details on Wednesday, a spokesman said.

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