REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 27, 2004 — Unchalee, an 18-year-old student in Bangkok, Thailand, goes to a school that has just one personal computer for every 30 students. Like many students in her school, Uchalee’s family could not afford to have a PC at home, so school experience represented her only access to a PC. Last year, her one-hour-per-week introduction to computers was just enough to teach her basic computing skills, but it whetted her appetite for much more. Unfortunately, once she passed the final test for the course, she lost her one hour of access to the computer lab in order to allow other students to take the class.
Tailored and Localized for First-Time Computer Users
But now, with a Windows XP Starter Edition computer in her home, Unchalee is able to spend four to five hours each day on a computer, and can connect to the Internet — opening a world of information to her right in her own home. Her older brother, who never before touched a computer keyboard, uses the computer every day, too, to search the Web and explore distant lands to which he’d like to travel.
What’s made this difference is a pilot program sponsored by Microsoft in collaboration with the government of Thailand. The program brings Microsoft Windows XP Starter Edition — a localized, more affordable, easier-to-use version of the Windows operating system — to first-time PC users in developing technology markets. The first three pilot markets for Windows XP Starter Edition — Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia — were announced on August 11, in collaboration with their respective governments and PC industry participants.
This week, Microsoft announced that the operating system will be available in Russia and in India in early 2005.
Microsoft has tailored Windows XP Starter Edition for first-time computer users. The software will be available in the Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Russian and Hindi languages. A supplemental CD includes local-language instructional videos for first-time PC users. To further aid those users, a redesigned Help system, called My Support, includes a detailed Getting Started guide. The software also features country-specific images and screensavers with familiar landscapes, flags, and designs.
Consistent with the goal of making the software easy to use for first-time users, the settings for Windows XP Starter Edition are pre-configured, saving people time and trouble in setting up their computers. The Windows firewall is turned on to help make computing safer. The software also includes configurations that make it easier for novice users to organize their information and prevent accidental information loss.
The software will ship on new, low-cost desktop PCs starting with Thailand in October. A few people, such as Unchalee, have received Windows XP Starter Edition PCs to use in their homes as part of in-depth studies preceding the national pilots. Over the next 12 months, Microsoft plans to study the program’s benefits to first-time PC customers, software and hardware industry partners, as well as to the pilot governments and Microsoft.
Visiting with Unchalee and Suthirat
Unchalee at home with her PC in Bangkok.
Microsoft’s Mike Wickstrand and Yannis Dosios, Windows XP Starter Edition Product Managers, have visited the homes of many families who are using early versions of Windows XP Starter Edition to understand how they are exploring and working with their new PCs, and to learn ways to make the software even more useful for first-time users. Unchalee, the Bangkok student, says that the local language instructional videos that come with Windows XP Starter Edition are quite helpful to her, particularly in understanding how to use her computer more effectively. Despite her experience with PCs in school, this is her first experience with a computer that speaks and presents text in her own language, and she’s making the most of it. She added her friends to her Windows Messenger contact list and uses her computer frequently to access websites about Thai music, education, travel, and technology. Images of majestic Thai elephants serve as her computer’s background image, or wallpaper.
Elsewhere in Thailand, college student Suthirat is also participating in the Windows XP Starter Edition pilot. Suthirat is a more experienced computer user, but the pilot program has given her her a chance for the first time to have a PC in her home. She’s using the computer several hours each day, almost entirely on the Internet. In addition to Web browsing, Suthirat uses her new computer for sending and receiving e-mail messages, writing reports for school.
Suthirat and her computer in Thailand.
She’s also teaching her 17-year-old brother and 15-year-old sister to use the computer. They’ve already mastered Web surfing and playing games — but she envisions teaching them to use Microsoft Excel, as well. According to Suthirat, Windows XP Starter Edition offers a great introduction to computers because of the localization, simplified use, and extensive in-product help.
“Visiting with Windows XP Starter Edition study participants like Unchalee and Suthirat confirms our best hopes for the pilot program,” says Microsoft’s Wickstrand. “They’re finding new ways to take advantage of the PC every day. They’re teaching their family members how to use PCs for the first time and they are also teaching us how we can evolve the technology to better serve their needs. It’s an immensely rewarding process.”
Promoting “Digital Inclusion”
Windows XP Starter Edition is a key component of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to work with governments around the globe to promote what Microsoft calls “digital inclusion,” enabling more people worldwide to benefit from personal computers in their daily lives and creating local economic opportunity.
“Millions of people around the world have never experienced even the most basic benefits that PCs can provide because the technology is not always appropriate for their needs and is often too expensive relative to their incomes,” says Dosios. “The governments with which we’re working in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia and elsewhere recognize that their citizens need greater access to lower-cost, easier-to-use PCs to help make them more competitive in world markets. That’s a perfect fit with Microsoft’s commitment to deliver technology in new, affordable, and accessible ways to more people worldwide.”
Beyond the Windows XP Starter Edition pilot program, Microsoft is acting on this commitment through a variety of programs, including the following:
Microsoft Unlimited Potential is a global initiative to help narrow the technology skills gap and aid global workforce development by providing technology skills through community-based technology and learning centers.
Partners in Learning is a global initiative in schools that, through collaboration with local, state and national governments, aims to increase access to and build capacity for the use of information and communication technologies by educators and students.
The Local Language Program is a global initiative that fosters the development and proliferation of regional language groups, enabling them to preserve and promote their language and culture while benefiting from continuing IT advancements. Through it, Microsoft expects to double its desktop language coverage from 40 to 80 languages.
“By 2008, more than 400 million households worldwide will have the income, electricity, and connectivity necessary to take advantage of the tremendous opportunity that computers enable,” says Wickstrand. “For Unchalee and Suthirat this is a reality today and we will continue working towards making it a reality for millions more.”