updated 6/23/2004 9:23:25 PM ET 2004-06-24T01:23:25

Microsoft Corp. plans to offer a version of its Windows operating system geared toward beginning computer users in Thailand and Malaysia starting this September.

The offering, dubbed Windows XP Starter Edition, will be part of government-sponsored programs aimed at providing more affordable personal computers in those countries.

The system won’t have all the functions of Windows XP offered in the United States, but it will have new features tailored to first-time users, Microsoft spokeswoman Heidi Reys said.

She said the starter edition will have many of the typical Windows features, such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player, but the company would not provide details of what the system will lack. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Microsoft has previously offered steep discounts on its existing Windows system, without English-language support, as part of the same government programs. That was an interim offering until the new, more tailored products could be developed, spokeswoman Alex Mercer said.

The efforts come as Microsoft faces increasing competition from cheaper rivals — such as those based on “open source” Linux technology — in developing markets.

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