Microsoft offers cut-rate Windows

Microsoft has provided a modified version of Windows XP with reduced features for use in the Thai government's low-cost PC program, and may make this software available to other governments, the company said. The "entry-level" version of Windows was created to allow Microsoft to participate in the Thailand ICT Ministry's program without adjusting its policy of charging the same price for Windows and Office no matter where in the world they are sold, Microsoft said Monday. The software was provided at a cost of 1,500 baht, or about $40, compared with the usual price of several hundred dollars.

"The Microsoft software provided for the ICT program in June 2003 is a Thai-language specific, customized, entry-level version based on Windows XP Home and Office XP Standard," said a Microsoft spokeswoman. Last year, market research firm Gartner said the Thai deal was the beginning of the end for the one-price policy, predicting Microsoft would be compelled to halve its prices in poorer countries by the middle of 2004. Now Microsoft says it is looking to collaborate with more governments on low-cost PC initiatives, using customized software with reduced functionality, as in Thailand.

Andrew McBean, Microsoft Thailand's managing director, said in an interview with The Bangkok Post last week that the company was developing an entry-level version of Windows for sale in poorer countries.

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