The Windows versus Linux battle has moved to the Indian sub-continent with both Red Hat and Microsoft announcing this week that they plan to release new language versions in the country's lanugages.

The decision to go for the Indian market is obvious, if oddly belated. India is rapidly becoming a technological world centre, spurred on by international investment thanks to low wages and high technical skills.

Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 4, scheduled for release early next year, will include five new languages - all Indian. Red Hat sees a great opportunity in India for Linux desktop deployments in education, e-governance, and small and medium-size enterprises, said product manager Michael Ferris.

Ferris was in Bangalore for an Asia-Pacific regional tour by Red Hat executives to brief the IT and business communities on open-source software's benefits.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has said it will extend its XP-Lite programme - where it sells a cut-down, local-language version of Windows XP for less that the full version - to India from early year, but so far only in the Hindi language. Earlier this week, it announced that Russia was next on the list following several XP-Lites in Asia.

Red Hat announced the beta of Enterprise Linux Version 4, code-named Nahant, and described it as the next generation of Red Hat's suite of enterprise operating systems. It will be the first release based on the 2.6 Linux kernel. "Our focus has always been to release technology that we believe is enterprise quality and is ready to be adopted by customers," said Ferris, adding that Enterprise Linux 3 has features from the 2.6 version of the Linux kernel.

As for Microsoft's Indian "Starter Edition", as with previous versions, it received endorsements from the government, whom Microsoft has courted. Several multi-national and domestic PC makers have also indicated that they will offer machines with it.

India's PC sales were up by 39 percent from sales in the same quarter last year, according to the Manufacturers Association of Information Technology in Delhi. Aggressive pricing by PC vendors helped improve PC penetration, especially in households and small and medium-size businesses.

A Hindi language interface and resources such as help and training in Hindi will accompany the Indian Starter Edition, Microsoft said. It will be available from early next year.