Called Windows Vista Starter, it is similar in concept to the Windows XP Starter Edition that Microsoft announced in June 2003: a version of the operating system that can run on lower-end processors, in numerous languages, with extra tutorials bundled for customers who may be using PCs for the first time. Starter Edition will be.
"Microsoft was founded on the idea of a computer on every desktop in every home," said Mike Wickstrand, director of product marketing for Microsoft's Market Expansion Group, adding that the Redmond, Wash.-based company has been working with "governments in emerging markets around the world to better understand what their needs were in improving access to technology for their citizens, and particularly for those citizens in the middle- and lower-income brackets within those countries."
According to Wickstrand, the Windows XP Starter Edition was marketed primarily to consumers in Southeast Asia, Russia and India, with particular focus on families with school-age children and those who had purchased their first computer. One of the most valuable assets of the product, he said, was that it was made available in local languages. Ultimately, Windows XP Starter Edition was released in 24 languages and was sold in more than 130 countries.
With the launch of Windows Vista Starter, Microsoft is expanding its initiative to make its products accessible to lower-income families in developing countries. It will be available in 70 languages and also feature an option that allows use of the operating system in different languages--if, for example, a parent wants to use the computer in his or her native language but the household's children want to use it in English.
The stripped-down Vista will also be able to run on a wider variety of processors than its XP predecessor, ranging from Intel's Celerons and older Pentiums to Advanced Micro Devices' Duron. While a 300MHz processor is recommended, the operating system can run on speeds as low as 233MHz.
Another feature of XP Starter Edition that has been expanded in Vista is the suite of support tools designed to provide answers to even the most basic questions. "In a developed market, we're used to having a lot of high-end users, a lot of technology enthusiasts; and these are definitely not technology enthusiasts," Wickstrand said. "A lot of these customers had never used a mouse before." With Windows Vista Starter, people will have the option of tutorials in their native languages or of watching a demonstration of the mouse clicking its way through the task in question.
Microsoft has high hopes for this edition of its new operating system.
"We're pretty enthusiastic about the customer and partner interest in the product overall," Wickstrand said. "When we take a look at XP Starter Edition, it took us a year and a half to sell our first half million (copies), six months to sell the next half million, and just three months to sell the third half million." The company says it is looking forward to similarly "aggressive growth" with Windows Vista Starter.