There’s been a lot of speculation over the last few days about which version of Windows 7 computer makers would be most likely to preload on netbooks. Every version of Windows 7, right up to the Ultimate Edition, will be capable of running well on low power, low cost mini-laptops. But Microsoft needs to make some money on its operating system, so the company’s not exactly going to give away Windows 7 Ulitmate for free. So what does that mean for netbooks?

As it turns out, it means they’ll likely come at a variety of price points. HP officials told Computer World recently that the company plans to offer at least 3 different versions of Windows 7 on netbooks: The low cost Starter Edition as well as Home Premium and Professional editions.

Windows 7 Starter Edition will be the least capable of the three. Users will only be able to run up to three programs at a time. In the past Microsoft has only made Starter Editions of its operating system available in developing nations, but the company plans to offer Windows 7 Starter Edition in the US to give netbook makers a low cost option for their computers. It’s not yet clear what the price difference will be between the various editions of Windows 7. But it’s probably safe to bet that the Home Premium and Professional editions will cost a bit more, driving up the cost of those netbooks.

The question then is, will customers be willing to pay for the ability to run more than three programs? And how much?

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22 replies on “HP to offer 3 Windows 7 flavors on netbooks”

  1. I love xp home.

    Vista(win7) w/o aero = why vista(win7) at all.

    MS is going down.

  2. Starter Edition is garbage. There is no technical reason for it to even exist, other than MS being greedy a-holes. Hopefully it will get the same bad rep that Vista got (deserved or not) and people will largely avoid it in favor of Linux and tell MS where to get off.

    1. If it gets bad rep, they will eliminate it from the developed market. They will play a balancing game of fighting off the Linux competition, not killing their own profits and making sure they don’t shoot them selves in the foot in the eyes of the consumer. I think they have a plausibly working formula here. It is definitely better than anything I could come up with (and I am really smart 🙂

      1. Actually, the easy and probable solution would be for Microsoft to offer Windows 7 Home Basic to netbook makers. Currently Home Basic is only going to be available in emerging markets. I think Microsoft is going to have to back down here eventually, as Starter is just going to tick off users, and Home Premium suffers too great a price disadvantage relative to Linux on netbooks. Microsoft will likely do what they have to, to keep Linux from getting a foothold in the consumer market. (On the other hand, Microsoft seems really, really committed to the proposition that the operating system should be the ONLY element of a PC that doesn’t go down in price, despite the fact that their economies of scale mean that Windows is basically a license to print money.)

  3. 3 program limit?
    Is this a joke?
    Turn on your browser and listen to some MP3’s while doing it and you have one thing left?
    Hmm, do I REALLY need to have that IM going? Or Skype?
    Nah, lets leave them closed and if someone wants to talk to me they can just use the phone.

    I presume this limit doesnt include AVG, firewall, Ad-Aware and the other programs I have to run whenever I have to boot into Windows?

    1. It may be they do not count “services” only interactive programs in that limit.
      Otherwise it sounds more like an advanced DOS with eye-candy.

      1. Actually from what I’ve been reading, it looks like anything that runs in the system tray instead of the taskbar doesn’t get counted. And that means that you can get around this limit by using apps that minimize programs to the system tray instead of to the taskbar. But that’s not something that most customers are going to realize.

        1. This is interesting. So if Skype/IMs minimize into the system tray, that is good enough for most people I know. My wife uses a browser and openoffice. (Really). On rare occasion the Kodak photo program. She has skype running. That’s it. Most users are more like my wife than me for example who is quite amused by the OSX netbook experiment on how many things you can run at the same time 🙂 (That is one of my concerns in considering OSX on a netbook 🙂

  4. The three program limit will be completely alien to most computer users and I haven’t a clue how a computer company like HP can clearly explain this strange limitation to potential customers. Many have made hay with the return rates of (some) Linux-equipped netbooks (you heard me, Psion), but the returns of Starter may lap the field.

  5. Overcoming the 3 program limit for the Starter Edition sounds like a trivial matter for a hacker… I’m sure we’ll see hacks for this pretty quickly…

  6. >”And it will insure that if they need something more, they will pay up. There won’t be a choice at that point. There won’t be a Linux recovery disk to give that a try in case you feel limited by the crippled Windows. (And even if some netbook manufacturers will have the decency to include the Linux recovery disk with every Windows Starter laptop, it is not like most people have a bootable USB DVD drive laying around. If you have one you probably know what you need and are competent enough to install a Linux from an Install disk, without a recovery disk.)”

    There is an excellent choice available instead of paying up. As per my post above, it is fairly easy to install a full-featured, fully working version of Linux on any netbook that can run Windows 7.

    KDE 4.2 in particular has had a major re-vamp, and all the dialog boxes and applets have been re-arranged to ensure they fit on a small netbook screen. Out of the box, in the context of netbook useage, KDE 4.2 spanks Windows silly in every aspect one can name. The only way to bring Windows up to equivalent functionality would be either to spend quite a bit more money on Windows upgrades and additional Windows software, or to put up with a three-program limit and install FOSS applications for Windows. If you are going to use FOSS applications, then why not run them under Linux and avoid the three-program limit?

    1. Being from Hungary (a country much similar to what you describe) but having lived in the US from 1995 to 2006 I can say I have a unique perspective on this. And you are definitely right about one thing. An average Hungarian consumer is definitely more likely to sit down and figure out how to get a functional OS on his or her machine if the crippled one seems a little too crippled. Either that or pirate a functional OS. The US consumer is more likely to pay up. Hungarians have less choices, are used to having to figure things out and definitely have less financial resources to dump into luxuries (like not having to sit down and figure things out – having the solution handed to them for a fee.) But the trend is definitely going towards the US model where people are willing to pay just a little bit more to get a better service. We’ll see how much the economic recession will reverse this trend. To an extent it certainly will.

      As for me, you do not have to convince me that I have choices. I actually don’t think I have a choice because I absolutely refuse to use Windows on any personal computer of mine. The Windows software I do need to use are on my work computer to which I can RDC into. I just bought two netbooks. One for myself (with an Ubuntu) and one for my wife (which shipped with Vista but that’ll be the first thing to go).

      I guess I am not the only person reading this blog so it is not a bad idea to reiterate that people do have choices. And, no, it is not that hard to install Linux.

  7. You and I both know this. We also know never to buy a crippled Windows machine. Most people on the other hand…

    1. >”You and I both know this. We also know never to buy a crippled Windows machine.”

      Unfortunately, in my country, there is almost no choice. Either one buys a reasonable-spec netbook machine with Windows, or one buys a considerably-reduced-spec netbook machine with a constrained and quite lame version of Linux. This is all that retail outlets will offer for sale. Dell (of all OEMs) has even refused to offer for sale its Linux version of the Mini in my country.

      Fortunately, the Windows Home XP that comes with these machines is obviously heavily subsidised by Microsoft. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it transpired that Microsoft was paying OEMs to pre-install Windows on these machines. Given that fact, it is no skin at all off my nose to just wipe Windows. It amuses me to think that Microsoft might have even made a small contribution to the purchase of my Linux netbook machine.

      Windows 7 starter edition would be roughly the same situation as is current with Windows XP Home. Not worth anything, no impact on the cost price of the machine … so no disincentive whatsoever to just wiping it after you first open the box and have verified that Linux works on the machine by booting the liveCD-on-USB-stick.

  8. To install Linux on a netbook that can run Windows 7, all that one needs is the following:
    (1) an uncomitted USB flash stick. This can be had for less than $10 if you don’t have one, and it is a useful addition for your netbook afterwards anayway.
    (2) Unetbootin program. This can be downloaded for Windows or for Linux.
    (3) A “liveCD” .iso file for a capable Linux distribution that will work on netbooks. Mandriva 2009 or Ubuntu/Kubuntu Jaunty will do fine. If you can’t download an .iso file, then you could always buy a CD via the post, and make the .iso file from that.

    Steps: (a) Plug the USB into your Windows machine, run Unetbootin, select the ISO file option, select the .iso file you have, select the drive of the plugged-in USB stick, and let it run.
    (b) When it finishes, put the USB stick in your netbook (if it wasn’t already there). Reboot, enter the BIOS, and enable booting from the USB stick (all netbooks allow this).
    (c) Boot the “liveCD” on the netbook running from the USB stick.
    (d) Run the “Install to HD” program of the liveCD.

    Suddenly … your crippled Windows 7 netbook has become a fully functional Linux machine running Mandriva, Kubuntu or Ubuntu. The first two of those will give you a full KDE 4.2 desktop … not at all crippled. You will have a full suite of normal, netbook-like applications already installed. No three-program limit.

    Sadly, these steps are becoming necessary for netbooks, because Microsoft has been successful in getting to the OEMs, and more and more the option to pre-installed Linux is being either withdrawn or hamstrung by a lame version of Linux.

    Happily, this won’t cost you at all, because the basically useless three-program-limit Windows starter edition won’t cost you much, and you won’t feel at all reluctant to just wipe it.

    1. Just a quick note here … if one has been using Windows for a while, and consequently one has some files on the netbook that one doesn’t want to “just wipe” … then a few extra steps are needed. Either (a) in Windows, just after running Unetbootin, one needs to copy the “Documents and Settings” directory from Windows onto the USB stick, or (b) one needs to do the same thing in Linux when running the liveCD before one runs the “install to HD”.

      Finally, once Linux is installed to HD and running, one needs to copy the previously-saved “Documents and Settings” from the USB stick back on to the netbook.

  9. By the way. What does it mean that you can only run three applications. So it my virus killer, my stupid printer application that runs all the time and my wireless network discovery tool all starts up at startup that means I cannot even run a browser? That ain’t gonna work for anyone. Or applications running in the background are exempt? How does it know?

  10. It doesn’t matter if customers are willing to buy the model preloaded with Win7 Starter. It isn’t about usability or desirability but… marketability. The sole purpose for producing a Win7 Starter edition netbook is simply to be able to advertise “HP Mini Mxx netbook with Win7… only $2xx!”

    It allows HP and MS to charge more for the “real” Win7 models. As long as HP can sell a Win7 Starter model at the same price as a Linux model, MS will be a winner.

    It’ll work. People aren’t very bright.

  11. I can see this working just fine for Microsoft. Give away the Starter so the price point is the same as a Linux netbook. People will buy it, hopefully understanding what it is. For some people it will be OK. For others there will be that icon on the desktop that asks them for their credit card number and takes say $40-80 from them for a Home Premium upgrade. The upgrade will be seemless and the customer will either be happy with the upgrade or grumpy because s/he had to pay but M$ will get its money.

    This will ensure that people will pick Windows because they are familiar with it. And it will insure that if they need something more, they will pay up. There won’t be a choice at that point. There won’t be a Linux recovery disk to give that a try in case you feel limited by the crippled Windows. (And even if some netbook manufacturers will have the decency to include the Linux recovery disk with every Windows Starter laptop, it is not like most people have a bootable USB DVD drive laying around. If you have one you probably know what you need and are competent enough to install a Linux from an Install disk, without a recovery disk.)

  12. I really think that it will be an incredible disaster if Microsoft ships Starter in any developed market. The reason that XP Home with an encheaped licensed competes with Linux on netbooks is because, well, it’s a good OS that isn’t FUCTIONALLY CRIPPLED.

    I mean, the fact hardware manufacturers are even talking about it gives me the Picard facepalm.

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