Microsoft has expanded its XP-Lite programme from Asia to South America, with the release of a local-language, cut-down and cut-price version of its OS in Brazil.

It is the sixth market into which Microsoft has pushed the OS in an effort to stymie Linux's advance. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia and India have all benefitted from deals struck with the local government where "Windows XP Starter Edition" comes pre-installed on cheap PCs.

The starter OS lacks support for advanced features such as home networking, sharing printers across a network or the ability to establish multiple user accounts on a single PC. It also limits the number of applications that can run at a time to three. Analysts at Gartner have dismissed it, saying it fails to meet the most basic needs of users.

Brazil is one of the countries where open source has been taking off, with the government promoting Linux products. In 2003, Brazil signed a letter of intent with IBM to develop initiatives that will promote the use of Linux in the South American country.

Microsoft has identified emerging markets as a major sales opportunity. In the US, about 60 percent of households have a PC, in Western Europe about 30 percent, but in India the figure is below two percent, while Russia and China are below five percent, Microsoft has said.

Microsoft did not say when the Brazilian version of Windows XP Starter Edition will be available.