Microsoft to expand low-cost Windows to Brazil

Company already offers the software in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, with plans to expand to India and Russia.

Microsoft plans to expand its low-cost Windows XP Starter Edition program to Brazil, the company confirmed Monday.

"On April 13, Microsoft is going to announce the expansion of its five market program to include Brazil," a Microsoft representative told CNET News.com. The company already offers the software in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, and has announced plans for India and Russia. The effort in India was pushed back slightly, but the company has said it expects to have Starter Edition launched there by June.

Microsoft declined to offer details on the Brazilian version or when it will launch, though it is expected to be similar to other versions of Starter Edition. In its current form, Starter Edition is not sold on store shelves, but only as part of low-cost PCs. There are other restrictions on the software itself, such as the ability to open only a maximum of three programs at a time.

The move comes as Brazil, a noted supporter of open-source software, seeks to offer a low-cost PC program. There have been reports that the government will use Linux, but Microsoft says it is unaware of being out of the running.

"We will continue to work closely with the government to explore how Microsoft can help address the challenge of enabling digital inclusion through programs such as PC Connectado and other innovative programs," the software maker said in a statement. The company said it "shares the Brazilian government's desire to see a local vibrant IT industry."

Word of Microsoft's plans for Brazil started spreading after the company began demonstrating a localized version of the operating system to Brazilian journalists. The briefings were earlier noted on Microsoft-tracking site Microsoft Watch.

Although some have said Starter Edition is off to a slow start in the countries where it has launched, Microsoft said it's pleased with the results, though it would not say how many PCs have shipped with the operating system.

"We have a tremendous amount of input from first-time PC users in developing technology markets," Mike Wickstrand, director of Windows product management, said in a recent interview. "The feedback that they are giving us is that Windows XP Starter Edition is a valuable product. We're committed to learning and evolving to meet the needs of those customers."

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