Almost every netbook that ships with Windows 7 comes with the crippled Windows 7 Starter Edition. Users can’t use Aero Glass desktop effects or even change the desktop background. Windows 7 Starter doesn’t include Windows Media Center or support for multiple monitors. Wikipedia has a good breakdown of all the Windows 7 features you’re missing if you get a netbook with Windows 7 Starter.
The reason most netbooks ship with Windows 7 Starter is simple: It’s cheaper than other versions of the operating system and helps PC vendors keep prices low. Since the whole point of a netbook is that it’s a cheap, portable computer, price is kind of key.
But Microsoft does offer an upgrade path. Netbooks with Intel Atom processors are perfectly capable of running the higher priced versions of Windows 7. All you have to is pay for the “anytime upgrade.” Normally that means shelling out $79.99 to upgrade from Windows 7 Starter to Windows 7 Home Premium. But starting on April 4th Microsoft and participating retailers will be offering a promotion that lets you upgrade for $49.99.
The promotion ends on July 3rd in the US, but specifics will vary from place to place.
Microsoft is also dropping the price of upgrading from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional from $89.99 to $79.99. But I don’t think that’s likely to affect netbook users as much as the first price drop. $50 really doesn’t seem like a lot of money to pay for an upgrade, even if you only spent about $50 on your netbook.
Of course, if all you want to do is change your desktop background, there are ways around Windows 7 Starter’s limitations. But if you need some of the other features that only come with higher end versions of the OS, you might want to snag an upgrade license in the next few weeks.