A simplified and lower-priced version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP operating system (OS) will begin shipping to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand on new desktop PCs in October as part of a pilot program to tap into first-time PC users in developing markets, the software maker said Wednesday.

The introduction of Windows XP Starter Edition in the three Asian markets was widely anticipated as Microsoft said in July it was negotiating with the governments to offer the entry-point product. The company also plans to announce shortly two more countries taking part in the pilot program, it said Wednesday.

Windows XP Starter Edition is an easy-to-use, cheaper version of the company’s current flagship OS, offering localized language support and customization options, preconfigured settings and simplified task management. Introduction of the product comes as the Redmond, Washington, software maker takes on the growing threat of Linux and the continuing plague of piracy common in developing markets.

The starter OS is geared toward first-time users and has no support for more advanced features such as PC-to-PC home networking, sharing printers across a network or the ability to establish multiple user accounts on a single PC. It does include Internet connectivity, Windows Messenger and digital photography support, as well as security features, the company said.

The software will ship to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia on new, low-priced desktop PCs through PC manufacturers and Microsoft distributors in Thai, Malay and Indonesian-language versions.

Microsoft said it plans to announce specific pricing for the software to manufacturers in coming weeks, adding that it would be “the most affordable Windows operating system available to date.”

The software is being offered as part of a 12-month pilot program and the company said that it may extend the offer to other developing markets if the pilot is successful.

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