Putting Windows on a Diet

K Roy

It’s ‘lean and light’ and cheap, and it’s from

In an environment where the giant’s struggling against two
free competitors-pirated Windows, and Linux-this sounds like just what the
doctor ordered.

Yet XPSE has been ripped apart by analysts and global media.
Gartner recommends that potential users steer clear of XPSE for now. The UK’s
Register called it “spinning an ecosystem from crippleware”.

Microsoft began working on XPSE in Thailand-following that
government’s interest in a cheap ‘people’s PC’. The program then added
Indonesia, Malaysia and Russia. The OEM-only XPSE is expected to have a
price-tag of around US $30, against the over $80 that major OEMs get XP Home

And now it’s India’s turn. Microsoft ‘unveiled’ the
Windows XP Starter Edition, or XPSE, in Delhi end-September-at a press
conference that included new ICT minister Dayanidhi Maran. XPSE India includes a
Hindi interface, and is scheduled for an “early 2005” launch.

XPSE is basically a stripped down Windows XP Home, just as
the latter was XP professional minus features such as in no network domain
membership, etc. Microsoft has put in some severe limitations. It will not run
more than three apps at a time. So if you run MSN and Yahoo Messenger, then it’s
either the browser or the email software or Word. One at a time, gentlemen.

XPSE can’t use more than 128MB RAM, or 40GB of hard disk
space, or a display resolution of over 800 x 600.

So why would Microsoft put in all this effort to actively
restrict a working operating system that has taken a decade to evolve to where
it is?

Clearly, it wants to differentiate it from the XP edition,
because it’s likely to charge a third of the latter’s price from the OEM-thus
resulting in cheaper PCs. And it says first-time users do not need more than
three apps at a time.

While I disagree with such conclusions after watching retired
neighbors rapidly moving up the usage curve, there’s a flip side. Even if
users quickly outgrow XPSE, as I believe they will, an OS upgrade is painful.
But let’s say half the users migrate. Most will move to copied Windows XP. Or
even to Linux. Either way, Microsoft is less worried now-having realized
somewhere in the region of Rs 2,000 for every user anyway. Think about it: every
pirate (or Linux user) will already have paid up to Microsoft!

The key for Microsoft will be to get OEM support-which
really means their moving back from Linux, and giving only Windows XP options:
Pro, Home or SE.

And that’s a tough one, because 2k-or even 1k-makes a
big difference to the price of a PC. And the competition’s still free.

Prasanto K Roy

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