Through Windows Vista Starter edition, Microsoft is looking forward to making its flagship product “easily available” to emerging markets in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.
Microsoft hopes to bring computing technology and the Internet to a billion new customers in emerging markets and ultimately impact their education, communication, productivity and entertainment, said Nabil Chebbi, Microsoft’s director for Windows Client Business Group for Southeast Asia.
According to Microsoft, the Vista Starter edition will have the same look as the other Windows Vista versions, and it will also offer the improved security of Vista, will support mainstream Intel and AMD processors, and will require only a minimum of 384MB of RAM and standard SVGA graphic card.
“Through the Starter edition, we are offering consumers in emerging markets the same Vista experience at a more affordable rate and in an easier manner,” Chebbi said.
Windows Vista Starter will be launched together with other Vista versions for the consumer market in January 2007; the Vista Starter edition will be available through the various OEM channels in each country.
Microsoft, however, has yet to announce pricing details for the Vista Starter edition.
“Windows Vista Starter will be the most affordable version, and it will run on entry-level hardware,” Chebbi said during a recent briefing held in Singapore.
Bridging the Digital Divide
“We wanted to see how we could offer the Vista experience to countries with low PC penetration,” Chebbi said, adding that there is great opportunity to bridge the so-called digital divide because almost 90 percent of the worldwide population still has no Internet access.
According to the Microsoft official, the company aims to help people discover what technology can do for them.
“There are several layers to that. On the most fundamental level, we see this product as laying a foundation for a new generation of users—computer-literate children who otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity,” he said.
Chebbi believes that, as these children grow up with computer skills, they will one day have a tremendous impact on their societies—building the academic, economic and social capital of their respective countries.
“Also, in many of these markets, the government has objectives around increasing the digital literacy and productivity of its citizens, so Windows Starter is also helping these governments achieve their objectives,” he added.
Microsoft sees opportunity in beginner PC users living in developing countries who have a limited budget for a first PC, have little PC experience, have children and want to extend PC ownership to them, and want to learn new professional skills.
According to Chebbi, the ownership hurdles that Microsoft wants to address include affordability, ease of use and reliability.
“Affordability doesn’t necessarily mean just cost; it’s also about having access to financing,” he said, adding that purchasing software via financing, instead of a one-time payment, is not available in some less-developed countries.
Citing UNESCO statistics, the Microsoft official said there are 430 million households that can barely afford a PC because the total cost of PCs is still high for them, and many others do not have enough financing options.
Ease of use is another concern, especially for first-time PC users, along with reliability, where users worry that their PC might break down and it might cost them a lot of money to get it running again, Chebbi said.
“We designed Vista Starter with these points in mind, because we simply want to make genuine Windows PCs more affordable,” he said.
Along with the easier interface that all Vista versions have, the Vista Starter edition will have a localized version available in about 72 languages, including Filipino.
Help tools and various other resources like step-by-step video demonstrations say, for use of peripherals, among others, will be available in local languages, Chebbi added.
-Jenalyn M. Rubio, Computerworld Philippines
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