RealTime IT News

Microsoft Orders a Thai 'Starter'

Microsoft confirmed today that it's ready to ship a localized version of Windows XP for Thailand.

Dubbed "Windows XP Starter Edition," the software is the product of cooperation between Redmond, Wash.-based company and the Thai government.

"We've been working with the [Information and Communication Technology] minister for a year, and this is the product we were delivering," Microsoft spokesperson Alex Mercer told internetnews.com.

"It's a low-cost option, really designed for first-time users," Mercer said. Microsoft interviewed 1,000 PC users within the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Ministry, in order to assess their needs. The ICT has been working to extend access to technology to all citizens.

According to Microsoft, Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Chinnawat told listeners of his radio show, "This software is very user-friendly and easy to understand." Microsoft reported that ICT Minister Surapong Suebwonglee said he believed it would be very good for the Thai people.

"We look forward to seeing how this product will be received by Thai citizens, and the impact it will have on their efforts to enable access to technology," Microsoft said in a statement.

Mercer confirmed that the product has been produced especially for Thailand, and will ship in September. Another localized and tailored version for Malaysia will ship before the end of the year. The final retail price hasn't been determined.

Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox said offering a low-price version in markets where annual household income precludes paying full price was a good tactic for Microsoft.

"One thing Microsoft does well is partner," he said. "Why not partner to establish a market for Windows and Office, rather than let piracy run rampant and alternatives to Windows and Office become popular?"

In Thailand and Indonesia, he said, "You're looking at two countries with some of the highest piracy rates in the world." He said that software piracy doesn't always indicate that consumers won't pay for software; sometimes it's a sign that consumers can't afford U.S. prices. "You'll find people do pay for software, but they're buying from people on the street who pirated it. Money is changing hands but it's at a price that people can afford."

"It's in Microsoft's best interest to deal with the problem this way and make better relationship with those local governments."