This week, Microsoft revealed that its hardware partners will soon begin shipping PCs loaded with Windows XP Starter Edition to consumers in Russia as part of a pilot program. XP Starter Edition, which will ship only with new low-cost PCs, offers a simplified (albeit less powerful) experience than other XP releases. The Russian version of XP Starter Edition will ship early next year.
Russia is the fourth country to participate in the Windows XP Starter Edition Pilot Program. Earlier, Microsoft announced that it will begin selling the new low-cost XP edition in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. The first XP Starter Edition-based PCs will go on sale in Thailand in October. Other likely candidates for the pilot program include Brazil, the People's Republic of China, and India.
Microsoft says that the pilot program, which will continue in the long term, is essentially a test to see whether consumers in some of the world's poorest countries will pay for low-cost computing. Many of the countries that Microsoft has invited to participate in the program are infamous for software piracy and are nascent markets for free software solutions such as Linux. For example, almost 97 percent of all software used in Russia is pirated, according to IDC.
Although more than 60 percent of US households have PCs, in Russia the figure is less than 5 percent. In India, less than 2 percent of households have PCs.
"Millions of people around the world have never experienced even the most basic benefits that PCs can provide because the technology is not always appropriate for their needs and is often too expensive relative to their incomes," XP Starter Edition Product Manager Yannis Dosios said. "The governments with which we're working in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, and elsewhere recognize that their citizens need greater access to lower-cost, easier-to-use PCs to help make them more competitive in world markets. That's a perfect fit with Microsoft's commitment to deliver technology in new, affordable, and accessible ways to more people worldwide."
XP Starter Edition doesn't include several standard XP features that wouldn't make sense for the product's intended markets--features such as home-networking capabilities, network-based printer sharing, and support for multiple user accounts. Users are limited to running just three applications at a time and can't adjust the screen resolution higher than 800 x 600. However, Microsoft says, XP Starter Edition is tailored to its specific markets and includes a redesigned help system, localized customizations, and most XP features, such as XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) security, digital photo and music integration, and software and hardware compatibility.