Microsoft to Offer Cheaper, Limited Windows in Russia

Microsoft says it will offer a simplified and lower-priced version of Windows XP in Russia, matching efforts to seed software markets in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The Russian version of Windows XP Starter Edition will be available early next year, the company said in a statement. The company also said that a similar version of Windows for first-time PC users will be made available in a fifth emerging technology market to be announced in the coming weeks.

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

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

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 percent of households have a PC, and in Western Europe about 30 percent; but in Russia and China the figures are below 5 percent, while in India the figure is below 2 percent, 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, the company has said.

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