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Microsoft cuts prices in Thailand

The software giant joins the Thai government's "people's PC" project, a move that could curb the spread of the Linux operating system in the country.

Microsoft has slashed prices on Windows XP and Office in Thailand, a move that could curb the spread of the Linux operating system in the country.

Microsoft last week announced plans to join the Thai government's "people's PC" project and said it would offer PC buyers in Thailand a combined Windows XP and Office suite for a mere $35.80 (1,490 baht), The Bangkok Post reported.

Buyers can purchase a Windows- and Office-loaded desktop for $298, excluding taxes, the report said. In other parts of the world, a standard edition of the Office XP software alone costs $399.

"Microsoft has developed a specific Thai program with a unique product for this unique project," said Andrew McBean, Microsoft Thailand's managing director.

The deal is for Thai consumers only and isn't available in other parts of Asia. However, McBean said the company is open to discussions with other Asian governments to "provide better access to technology for the disadvantaged."

"Microsoft is investing in the development of a tailored and limited version of its Windows XP Home Edition product in Thai as well as offering its Office XP Standard Thai Edition software specifically for" the people's PC program, he said.

Last month, Thailand's Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) ministry introduced a series of budget computers to increase computer literacy among the poor.

Government-subsidized models from local computer makers such as Belta, SVOA and Computec were launched at reduced prices between $256 and $458. The Bangkok Post earlier reported that Hewlett-Packard also , but HP Senior Vice President Alex Gruzen, who runs the company's notebook division, said the deal fell through and HP is not shipping Linux notebooks.

Since then, a number of other PC makers have joined the fold, including Taiwan-based Jade Quantum, which is making a notebook for this project.

To date, more than 160,000 of these computers have been sold under an easy-payment plan arranged with local banks by the Thai government.

The first batches of machines were loaded with Linux TLE, the Thai-language version of the Linux operating system. The desktops also came with the OpenOffice productivity suite, a package that includes applications for word processing, presentations, spreadsheets and Web browsing.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently identified Linux as a threat to his company. The software giant's move to join the Thai project also is an effort to stem losses from piracy.

"Thailand is a market where pirated software is freely available. It's to be expected that a significant number of buyers of the Linux PCs will go home and reload them with a pirated copy of Windows," Dion Wiggins, Gartner Asia-Pacific's research director, said in an earlier report.

CNETAsia's Winston Chai reported from Singapore.