Windows XP Starter Edition

Microsoft has released (Aug 2004) a limited (you can only run 3 programs at once), cheap, $30 version of Windows XP called the "Starter Edition", for third-world countries.  It's main purpose is to give poor people a chance to own Windows !!  It is not available in the U.S., but of course, at the reduced $30 price (XP Pro is $199), there will undoubtedly be a black market for it.  Here is an article from WinXP News describing this new release:

Do You Want a Dumbed-Down Version of XP?

How many different versions of Windows XP are there? We have Home Edition, Professional Edition, Tablet PC Edition and Media Center Edition. Pro is basically a "superset" of Home Edition, with additional features. And TPC and MCE are, in turn, supersets of Pro. Now there's yet another Edition: Windows XP Starter Edition, also known unofficially as "XP Lite."

Starter Edition is actually a limited version of the software that doesn't have all of the functionality of other editions. For example, you can only run three programs at a time - so much for multi-tasking! And all users have to be content with the same desktop - say goodbye to multiple user accounts.

Just as "starter homes" are designed with first-time homebuyers in mind, the Starter Edition of XP is focused on new computer users. Settings are pre-configured to decrease confusion. But even many newbies might not be satisfied with an operating system that only supports a maximum screen resolution of 800x600, which certainly doesn't allow you to take advantage of today's big, high-end monitors. Want to set up a home network so your computers can share files, printers, etc.? With Starter Edition, forget about it. Local area networking isn't supported, either.

On the other hand, XP SE is expected to cost only about $30. However, if you're thinking "hey, I don't need all the fancy stuff and I wouldn't mind saving some money," well, there's a catch. You won't find XP Starter Edition down at the local software store; it's only intended for sale as part of a pilot program in places such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries where computer ownership is low and governments have initiated programs to increase computer usage. Languages will be tailored to the countries where it's sold.

And for a $30 OS, XP will do quite a bit. It supports Internet connectivity, runs a full range of software applications, supports common hardware devices (printers, cameras, speakers, etc.). Windows Messenger and Media Player 9 are included, and so are the security technologies that are added to other editions of XP via SP2.

All things considered, though, I think I'd rather spend $199 for XP Pro and get all the features. The approximately $170 difference in price just wouldn't be worth it - even if you didn't have to move to Thailand to get it.

A number of Microsoft critics are not happy that the "cut rate" version of XP won't be available in the U.S. and other more technologically advanced countries. They're proclaiming that it's "not fair" for Microsoft to offer a lower cost version only in selected locations.

Microsoft's Announcement of XP Starter Edition

Microsoft Announces Windows XP Starter Edition Pilot Program

Low-Cost Windows Pilot Will Bring Social and Economic Benefits of Personal Computing To Consumers in Developing Technology Markets of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Aug. 11, 2004 -- Microsoft Corp. today announced a five-country pilot program for Windows® XP Starter Edition, a low-cost introduction to the Microsoft® Windows XP operating system designed for first-time desktop PC users in developing technology markets. Designed as a result of Microsoft's ongoing collaborations with international governments, the Windows XP Starter Edition Pilot Program is part of Microsoft's comprehensive commitment to enable individuals, communities and countries to gain access to the technology tools, skills and innovation they need to realize their potential. Windows XP Starter Edition will offer an affordable and easy-to-use entry point to the Windows family of products that is tailored to local markets, in local languages, and is compatible with a wide range of Windows-based applications and devices.

Starting in October 2004, Windows XP Starter Edition will ship on new, low-cost desktop PCs available through PC original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Microsoft OEM distributors in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Language versions will be available in Thai, Malay and Indonesian.

Windows XP Starter Edition will be the most affordable Windows operating system offered to date. Specific pricing information will be made available to participating PC OEMs and Microsoft Authorized OEM Distributors in the coming weeks. The remaining two countries in the five-country pilot program will be announced later this year following final discussions with governments and partners.

Microsoft will continue to work closely with participating governments to ensure that the pilot program is a success. The company is establishing a 12-month pilot phase to study and evaluate the benefits created for first-time PC users, software and hardware industry partners, participating governments, and Microsoft. After the 12-month pilot phase, Microsoft may introduce a local version of Starter Edition in additional developing markets in collaboration with governments committed to improving access to technology for their citizens.

"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."

The Benefits of Windows at a Lower Price Point

Windows XP Starter Edition offers a simple introduction to personal computing for consumers interested in buying an affordable first computer for their homes. The technology includes the following key features:

Windows XP Starter Edition includes basic Windows XP features that allow users to take advantage of computing experiences such as the following that are popular with most first-time desktop PC users:

Opportunity Created Through the Windows Ecosystem

In addition to the social benefits of digital inclusion, Windows XP Starter Edition also creates economic opportunities for system builders and ISVs that are partnering with local governments to deliver a tailored and localized solution built on the Windows platform.

Building Opportunity for Individuals and Communities

The Windows XP Starter Edition Pilot Program further builds on Microsoft's ongoing commitment to deliver innovative programs that enable individuals, communities and nations to reach their potential by providing the technologies and education to become part of the global digital ecosystem. In addition to Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft recently announced the Local Language Program, a global initiative to partner with governments to localize Windows in 40 regional languages within the next year, which will double the number of languages supported by Windows. In addition, global programs such as Partners in Learning (PiL) and Unlimited Potential (UP) provide comprehensive IT curriculum development, training and access to technology in schools as well as aid work-force development by providing technology skills training through community technology and learning centers. Together, the PiL and UP programs aim to provide IT skills training to individuals in underserved communities around the world.

"Technology serves as a catalyzing force for economic and social change around the world, but too many countries still lack basic digital skills and access," said Maggie Wilderotter, senior vice president of the Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft. "By providing a technology solution that is low-cost, tailored and localized, and delivered in a manner that meets country-specific needs, we hope to create opportunities for more global communities to realize the boundless social and economic potential of the digital ecosystem."

"Microsoft is excited about announcing Windows XP Starter Edition in Thailand," said Andrew McBean, general manager of Microsoft Thailand. "We have been honored to work together with the Thai government to deliver a tailored and localized offering for first-time users. These efforts have been guided by a process of ongoing collaboration and feedback from industry, governments and consumers."