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Touching People’s Lives: Two Million and Counting


Learning to use a mouse in Russia. Connecting a PC to a printer in India. Empowering a small business in Namibia. Opening doors to a child’s education in rural Argentina.

These are the sorts of challenges Microsoft sought to address with the introduction of Microsoft Windows XP Starter Edition in 2004 – and reinvested in with the introduction of Windows Vista Starter in January 2007. As of today, more than 2 million individuals and families have started their journey into the digital world via a PC with a Windows Starter operating system, which Microsoft designed specifically for first-time PC owners in developing countries and disadvantaged communities.

News of Windows Starter reaching the 2-million-units-shipped mark is especially timely in light of other Microsoft announcements. At the Microsoft Government Leaders Forum (GLF) Asia today, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates launched a sweeping new effort to help close the digital divide in all parts of the globe. The company’s growing commitment to advance social and economic opportunity through technology includes an expansion of Microsoft Unlimited Potential and a new Microsoft Student Innovation Suite designed to make a high-quality education affordable for young learners around the world.

The Student Innovation Suite features Microsoft Windows XP Starter Edition, along with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, Microsoft Math 3.0, Learning Essentials 2.0 for Microsoft Office and Windows Live Mail desktop. The suite will be available for US$3 to governments purchasing bulk orders of computers for students through Microsoft’s Partners in Learning program.

The inclusion of Windows XP Starter in the Student Innovation Suite is expected to fuel the already-rapid growth of product shipments, which have gained significant traction since Microsoft released the operating system.

“The response to Windows Starter has been amazing,” says Mike Wickstrand, director of Product Management, Microsoft Market Expansion Group. “We achieved the 1 million milestone in September 2006, two years after the product’s inception, but that number doubled in just six months. This growing demand drives us to constantly evolve Windows Starter to meet the needs of our customers.”

Wickstrand cites the example of new Windows Vista parental controls, which Microsoft added to Windows Vista Starter upon learning how keenly parents in emerging nations want to protect their children from visiting inappropriate Web sites. Microsoft has also adapted the operating system to user needs in terms of language support. For example, when Windows Starter was first launched in India, the product was designed around the assumption that the local language is crucial to customers. User feedback, however, indicated that while the native language is crucial in some areas of the country, English is considered an aspiration language for education in other areas. That understanding led Microsoft to add multilingual capabilities and the ability to create multiple user accounts.

“It’s gratifying that so many people are benefiting from Microsoft’s localization investments, which increasingly allow families to use personal computers in their native language and in languages that they aspire to become more fluent in,” Wickstrand says.

Meeting Entry-Level User Needs Across Borders

Microsoft views Windows Starter as a passport to a digital society. To help advance computer literacy worldwide, the operating system family is tailored to the needs and wants of first-time PC users, optimized to run on low-cost hardware and localized for various geographies. Windows XP Starter Edition was first released in Thailand in 2004 and was subsequently made available in 139 countries and 24 languages. Windows Vista Starter will be available in 139 countries and 59 languages around the world. Both versions guide PC novices through the steps of learning fundamental computer skills so new users can take the greatest possible advantage of owning their first PC.

For example, the Russian-language edition of Starter features a simple, two-minute tutorial on getting started with a mouse. Engaging visual images and a voice-over in Russian combine to teach basic skills that are critical to a beginner, such as rolling the mouse across a mouse pad and clicking the buttons to acquire on-screen targets, and how to choose items from drop-down menus.

Similarly, a version of Windows Starter available in India features a quick and easy how-to on printing from a PC for the first time. Colorful graphics, dialog boxes and on-screen menus, coupled with a voice-over in Hindi, guide the novice user through the simple steps of cable connection.

New users are finding such resources valuable. Take the case of Japhet Hellao, a small entrepreneur in Katatura Township, Windhoek, Namibia, who provides catering for the country’s nine national trade unions. Before his family got its first computer, Hellao ran his business entirely by hand. He quickly learned how much a PC could do for him, even at the elementary stages, using Windows Starter. The verdict so far: No more scrutinizing the books for hours, no more writing letters by hand and then mailing them, no more standing in line everywhere, and no more frequent need to do the banking in person. Hellao reports that he’s saving huge amounts of time – time that he can spend instead with his family.

Windows Starter similarly touched the lives of the Alaniz family, first-time PC owners in Niquivil, Argentina, population 700. Vanessa Yanina Alaniz, 27, takes advantage of the computer to print affordable labels for the jams, liqueurs, empanadas and breads that she and the other two single mothers in her family produce. Beyond improving their ability to make a living, the PC holds promise for the education of the young children in the Alaniz family, making up for having no books and no library nearby. When the new PC was turned on for the first time and Windows Starter appeared, the way seemed easy. “For us it was like opening a third eye,” Alaniz says. “The more I investigate, the more I discover.”

Additional stories, videos and photos illustrating the benefits that new users around the world are experiencing with Microsoft Windows Starter are posted at


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