Microsoft brings XP Starter Edition to new markets

Microsoft reaches out to people in developing technology markets with several initiatives.

Microsoft will introduce versions of Windows XP Starter Edition in two additional languages, Arabic and Turkish, the company announced on Tuesday. The stripped-down version of its PC operating system is one of three Microsoft initiatives aimed at PC users in developing markets.

The new additions bring the total number of languages for Windows XP Starter Edition to nine, covering 32 countries, according to Microsoft Product Director Mike Wickstrand. "The Starter Edition provides more affordable software designed for beginning PC users in underserved markets," Wickstrand said. "It helps them get up to speed quicker."

The software provides "getting started" screen tips and videos for first-time users to use the software and connect to the Internet, Wickstrand said. He declined to specify what he meant by "affordable" or provide general pricing information about the product.

The starter initiative, launched 14 months ago, complements two other Microsoft initiatives aimed at developing technology markets: the Local Language Program and Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher (MAR) program.

The Local Language Program enables Windows and Office software to be localized by creating technology "skins," called Local Interface Packs, which overlay Windows and Office code to make them available in local languages. To date, Microsoft has 31 interface packs for Windows and 21 for Office, in languages such as Nepali and Punjabi, the company said.

The MAR program works in partnership with refurbishers to help under-served communities access low-cost technology, according to Microsoft. Under the program, refurbishers are licensed to install Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows 2000 Professional on refurbished computers to eligible recipients throughout the region. Eligible recipients include charitable organizations and educational institutions.

Not everyone is convinced of Microsoft's developing market initiatives. "I think the Starter Edition program is aimed largely at governments to show them that the company is doing more than just defending its software monopoly," said Sunil Abraham, manager of the international open source network at the United Nations Development Program.

"Why should people in developing markets, such as China and India, pay money for licensed Microsoft software when they can get pirated versions for next to nothing?" he asked.

Already, around 92 percent of the Microsoft software being used by consumers in China and around 88 percent in India is pirated, he said.

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