Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is targeting Africa with a lower-priced version of the Windows operating system that will work on cheaper machines and have Africa-themed screensavers and background wallpaper among its features.

Microsoft said Thursday its Windows XP Starter Edition for Africa is scheduled to hit African shelves in July, although it didn't say how many units will be shipped or what the price will be.

The Microsoft system "operates on lower-cost personal computing hardware" and "is designed for entry-level PC users in Africa — with extended help and assistance functions for first-time users, and locally relevant screensavers and wallpapers," the Redmond, Wash.-based company said in a statement released in Nigeria.

"It is a welcome move because it promises cheaper computers," said Zubby Opene, a Nigerian economist. "But for a country like Nigeria where more than 70 percent live on less than a dollar a day, the new system may well be for the rich only."

Similar products are already available in 83 countries from Latin America to Asia, the company said.

Few among Africa's 900 million people have the means to afford computers, and many of the Africans who do use castoff machines shipped from richer countries.

The leaders of many countries on the world's poorest continent are hoping to lure high-tech companies, taking a path that avoids the heavy-industry route followed by most developed nations. They would like to skip straight to services-based economies, citing India as an example.