The cut-down and cheap version of Windows XP that Microsoft is punting to Asia to prevent Linux from taking control of the market - dubbed XP-Lite - will start shipping in October.

Lucky users in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand will be the first to get the new desktop PCs as part of Microsoft's pilot program. It hopes to capture first-time users in the developing countries and get them used to the Windows interface. Another two countries will join soon, the company said.

Officially called Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft has been talking about XP-Lite since the start of the year. With Linux threatening to swamp the entire area due to its low-cost and open-source philosophy, top execs from the software giant went on tour to tout their wares and started cutting deals with various countries' governments to introduce Windows.

XP-Lite was born from a need to offer Windows at a lower price than is charged in the rest of the world without reducing its price universally. Hence, Microsoft has produced a cut-down version in the countries' own specific languages, thereby also preventing it from making its way back to the West.

Unfortunately, one of those aims was shown up in March, when Microsoft's offering still turned out to be more expensive than a Linux equivalent offered in the same country.

XP-Lite is geared toward first-time users and has no support for more advanced features such as PC-to-PC home networking, sharing printers across a network or the ability to establish multiple user accounts on a single PC. It does include Internet connectivity, Windows Messenger and digital photography support, as well as security features, the company said.

The software will ship to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia on new, low-priced desktop PCs through PC manufacturers and Microsoft distributors in Thai, Malay and Indonesian-language versions.

Microsoft said it plans to announce specific pricing for the software to manufacturers in coming weeks, adding that it would be "the most affordable Windows operating system available to date".

The software is being offered as part of a 12-month pilot program and the company said that it may extend the offer to other developing markets if the pilot is successful.