Microsoft announced a 12-month pilot program to provide personal computers running stripped-down versions of Windows XP to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia starting in October.
Microsoft isn’t selling the software separately from the PCs, or disclosing how much it is charging computer makers. The company expects the PCs to be priced as low as $300, a Microsoft spokesman says. In the U.S., low-end home computers typically start at around $400; Windows XP Home Edition by itself typically costs about $99 for users that are upgrading to the product, or $199 for a first-time installation.
The new offering, called Windows XP Starter Edition, is an example of how Microsoft is trying to serve developing countries without jeopardizing its profits in developed economies. The test program also should help Microsoft try to counter the Linux operating system, which is gaining ground in some countries against Windows.
Deepak Phatak, a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology and adviser to India’s government, says the country is exploring programs to distribute Linux-based PCs that would cost just $300 to own and maintain over three years. Still he says, the government is very open to Microsoft lowering its prices.
“People in the government will never play a technology-favorites game,” Mr. Phatak says. “They want to see value for money.”