A Cheaper Windows for All?

Opinion: David Coursey wonders how fair it is that Microsoft's Windows XP "Starter Edition" isn't available in the U.S.

If Microsoft can sell a less-expensive version of Windows XP in the developing world, why cant Americans buy it too? What have Thailand, Malaysia and Russia done to help Microsoft become the company it is today?

Americans and Europeans have long been subsidizing Microsofts global adventures, so if theres a better deal out there, dont we deserve it too?

Earlier this month, Microsoft began offering a Window XP "Starter Edition" to customers in Thailand. There are plans to offer additional localized versions of Windows in Southeast Asian markets as well as India and Russia.

/zimages/4/28571.gifSteven Vaughan-Nichols wonders why the U.S. cant get a slimmer XP. Read his views here.

According to Mike Wickstrand, the group product manager for Starter Edition, Microsofts goal is to help hardware makers create hardware thats much less expensive than whats available today. A target customer, according to Wickstrand, is "the woman who makes $6 a day selling papaya salad" in Thailand and her equivalent elsewhere in the developing world.

That Microsoft also wants to make inroads into these potentially lucrative markets before Linux is able to take over almost goes without saying. To this end, Microsoft is reportedly selling Starter Edition for as little as half what OEMs play for Windows HP Home Edition.

Wickstrand told me that the major difference between "Starter Edition" and the Windows XP sold with most new PC is that file and printer sharing have been removed. Networking remains in, however, including broadband and wireless.

Also included are help files and a dozen training videos, all presented in the local language. Wickstrand said the videos do such things as teaching mouse skills to someone who has never seen a pointing device.

And theres one more thing I almost forgot: Starter Edition isnt available in English, a convenient way to keep it off the computers of people who Microsoft believes should pay full price for its operating systems—people like you and me.

The introduction of the Thai language Starter Edition came only weeks after Microsofts No. 2 man, Steve Ballmer, called for the industry to develop a $100 PC, priced to make computing ubiquitous in poorer nations while also helping to end the rampant software piracy that occurs there.

/zimages/4/28571.gifDid Ballmer say Linux violates more than 200 software patents? Find out here.

This is a laudable goal for hardware vendors, who thus far have had trouble cracking about $175 on a routine basis, and then only for desktop machines running some version of Linux or Suns Java Desktop.

Next Page: The biggest challenge to creating a $100 PC.