As we’ve already seen time and again, Windows 7 Beta runs great on netbooks, even though the beta is basically an early build of Windows 7 Ultimate, which will be the most expensive version of the OS.

Windows 7 boots, launches programs, and performs more CPU intensive tasks just about as quickly as Windows XP, all while providing extra eye candy and features like live thumbnail previews of running programs from the taskbar. But Microsoft charges a fair bit of cash for a full version of an operating system, so I don’t think anybody expected Microsoft to offer low cost Windows 7 Ultimated edition licenses to netbook makers.

Today Microsoft announced that there will actually be 6 different versions of Windows 7, including a Starter Version which is designed for netbooks and computers in emerging markets. But as the folks at GeekZone explain, Windows 7 Starter edition kind of sucks. Sure, you get the new Windows 7 taskbar and Home Group features. But you can only run up to 3 applications at a time. Sure, it’s tough to see more than 3 windows at a time on a 1024 x 600 pixel netbook display, but if you want to run Skype, Windows Media Player and your web browser all at once, you can’t launch an image viewer, IM application, or anything else at the same time.

Netbook makers could decide to offer customers a chance to purchase machines with Windows 7 Home Premium (according to ZDNet, Home Basic will only be available in emerging markets), but that will certainly drive up the cost. While a lot of folks have been speculating Windows 7 could kill the popularity of Linux-based netbooks, maybe Microsoft’s next generation operating system could actually help keep Linux netbooks alive.

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29 replies on “Microsoft to offer crippled version of Windows 7 for netbooks”

  1. If I recently purchased two computers from HP and one of them has the full version of Windows 7 and the other only the Windows 7 starter version, can I install the full version on both computers?

    1. Right. But what they’re not saying is that they’ll offer discounted
      versions of Home Premium to netbook makers. So Asus, Acer, HP and all
      the rest will have to decide whether they want to pay full price for
      Windows and drive up the cost of their netbooks or offer Windows
      Starter/Linux for around the same price they charge today. If
      customers have a choice between a netbook with a crippled version of
      Windows for $350, or a full version for $450, or a Linux version for
      $300… I honestly don’t know what will happen. But I’d be surprised
      if we *didn’t* see some companies using Starter Edition for the price

  2. This 3 apps limitation sucks big time.

    What I see here is that Microsoft refuses to realise that if they could sell an OS for $100 when a PC cost $1000, they can’t continue to do that when a PC is costing $300!

    This is nothing but an attempt by MS to sell a practically unusable OS to force unsuspecting customers to “upgrade” to a version much too expensive compared to the hardware they bought.

    Consumer won’t pay $400 for a Windows netbook when the same is available for $300 with Linux, So now they will sell the Windows netbook with “starter” for $320 and then charge $80 for the upgrade when the user realise the limitations of the software. this means that most people will pay a lot more for their OS than what they intended.

    Unless the limitation is very clearly advertised this borders on fraud and will probably end up with a class action like the “ready for Windows Vista” debacle.

  3. Microsoft will absolutely push Starter as an option for Netbooks. They say as much:

    “For OEMs that build lower-cost small notebook PCs, Windows 7 Starter will now be available in developed markets.”

    It’s certain XP will no longer be offered as an option by Microsoft for hardware manufacturers. They’ve been working on retiring XP for quite a while, but to fend off Linux on netbooks they’ve been forced to continue to offer XP– reportedly at giveaway prices. Starter will be the new giveaway OS to replace XP.

    Some netbook makers won’t touch it, because they know their customers will hate Starter. Others will be reluctant to increase prices on netbooks to include Home Premium, so they’ll cross their fingers, install Starter, and promote the easy upgradability of Windows 7. I predict though that within a year or so the 3-app limit will have been so derided that most netbook makers will drop Starter from most machines, especially at retail. So there will be two versions of each netbook to choose from: a Linux version and a MUCH pricier version with Home Premium. It’ll be a good day for Linux.

    Microsoft could easily respond by offering Home Basic for domestic consumption (it’s currently only for “emerging markets”) but I don’t think they will. So Linux netbooks will sell pretty well.

  4. 6 versions? Again? I thought the point of learning from history was so you wouldn’t make the same mistakes again? lol

    why not ship ONE version (like Apple do)?

    Or cripple the shipping version and allow people to buy the extra bits if they want them? Actually, that won’t work… people will just find ways to key enable the extra bits. 🙂

    Go on MS, have the balls to ship one version with options to turn off performance sapping bloatware on low spec machines. There, it’s been said.

    I tried Linux. Sorry, it might be alright for basic users who just want to run a few simple programs but for us middle group who like to/have to run Windows programs or who want to do simple things (like add extra fonts for their work processing programs) Linux is not user friendly enough. In the end I put XP on the netbook instead. Ran well, worked as expected.

    I’m not anti-Linux. I also played with Vista on a new laptop and couldn’t stand the way they moved things around (for no reason) and slowed it down so much. Reverted that to XP too and suddenly the new laptop actually performed like it was a new laptop 🙂

    What does Windows 7 do better than XP to make it worth buying? Really? When Windows gained plug-and-play and USB ports and DVD drivers it was worth upgrading. Now it’s just steep relearning curves, some eye candy and nothing really new.

    1. As a matter of fact there is quite a bit new. I’m not going to go into details about it but to an extent you are right. There are no “mind blowing” reasons everyone has to run out and buy 7, but for power users there are a lot of nice features.

      As for your statement on one version, you are comparing apples to oranges, pardon the pun. Apple OSX was designed to be a home based operating system. Limited peer-to-peer networking and such. Windows on the other hand does MUCH more in a business environment, so it makes sense to have two primary versions of the OS, Home Premium and Professional.

      Now, I don’t condone the inclusion of Windows 7 Starter in North America, but I thought I should point out some of these facts.

  5. I’ll switch to Ubuntu on my 1000H before I have to buy the Windows 7 Premium edition which will no doubt have a Premium price.

    Windows 7 Ultimate Beta and Ubuntu both work just fine on it especially since I use the 1000H only for email and Web browsing when I am on the road. iI can also use the XP Home that it came with until the 1000H breaks.

    1. Actually, the “premium” tag is only being kept (quoting from Gizmodo) “because in market testing, Vista users thought they were getting downgraded, going from Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home.”
      So really, swapping out XP Home to W7 Home (premium) shouldn’t be a big price hike on netbooks. Will keep Linux in the picture tho.

  6. As one post asked: What are they smoking in Redmond?

    Let us just hope that none of the main-stream Linux distributions
    start breathing too deeply of the second hand smoke. 😉

  7. People aren’t going to keep buying millions of netbooks with a gimped windows that arbitrarily tells you that you’re running too many apps (with 2GB of RAM installed and a dual-core Atom processor no less) — totally absurd. Removing eye-candy, media center, stuff like that I can see in a netbook SKU, but trying to limit the number of running apps for no other reason than greed? I think true commodity throw-away impulse-buy computing devices are here and if MS insist on $100 OS licenses so people can use their $250 hardware unmolested then I think they’ll end up giving Linux the market share it could never attain on its own.

  8. That’s more of the same strategy that got them in trouble in Vista. Make as many versions as possible to make everyone pay as much as possible for the version they do not totally hate. Result? Everyone hates all versions.

    Granted the (totally arbitrary) 3 app limit is a new improvement. Sounds like the type of restrictions Apple is placing on the iphone (I predict we’ll soon be seeing jailbroken Windows 7 machines).

    1. Again though, the 3 app restriction is not new. Even Windows XP had a starter edition with similar restrictions. It’s just that no one really new much about it because it was never advertised.

      Now that the whole “different versions of vista fiasco” has broken out and people started getting frustrated over nothing, the starter edition has started to see more light. Did that bring Vista Starter to netbooks? No, that’s ridiculous. No one here would accept that.

      Just because Windows 7 started exists does not mean we will ever see it.

      1. I wasn’t aware that Vista starter had a three app limit and a similar hard disk limit of 250 GB, but remember that this was planned for “emerging markets” only, to stop piracy (mainly because people could not afford Vita at all). That is why we never saw it. But the article says current plans are for 7starter to go into netbooks. We will definitely see that.

        BTW did the version stop piracy or hacks to get around the limitatons? I have no data, but I guess not.

        Now, your point about that the market will not tolerate the starter version is right. But there is a spillover of dislike to the other versions, as people see the stupid limitations of the OS. Add to that that it will (probably) not sell at all except to a few people who do not know about computers and I think it will be a net loss for Microsoft, and for 7. And it will not reduce piracy.

        And for the people stuck with one what are the options? Jailbreaking, piracy or switching to linux.

        1. Yeah I agree completely. It would have made more sense to just keep the stupid home basic edition. Sure I am glad to see it gone, but I think crippling Areo and Media Center is bad enough. This restriction is just stupid. People will just hack it.

  9. I think this is getting blown out of proportion. Microsoft has always had a version for developing countries. That does NOT mean it will be bundled with netbooks. I would be very surprised to see anything running starter in the US market.

  10. Microsoft is trying to accommodate too many different spectrums. Do as APPLE. ONE OS FOR EVERYONE! Let the consumer decide how they want to “cripple windows” if that is even possible since it already comes shipped with a pair of crutches!

    I hope in the near future people fight the machine and just switch to Ubuntu.

  11. Waitwaitwait. Microsoft is releasing a version of Windows that only lets you run three applications at a time?


    What in the name of all that is holy are they SMOKING up there?

    1. Doesn’t windows start up with alot of applications? Not to mention anti virus programs that normally run in the back ground.

  12. Given the lower specs of the typical netbook, it makes absolutely no sense from a consumer’s point of view to want Vista SP2..errr.. I mean Windows 7 on the netbook. The UI elements are bloated. Larger buttons, spacing, etc. are wasteful on a netbook’s screen. It is highly doubtful that any so-called “Starter’s edition” of Win7 will be as small in diskspace as the typical nLited XP.

    I can understand why Microsoft would want Win7 on netbooks, but for the buying public?

    1. If you spend a few minutes customizing the UI elements, Win7/Vista fit quite nicely on a netbook screen. In fact, the new Win7 taskbar improves the usability by reducing taskbar clutter.

      My Netbook Desktop

      1. I completely understand how to tweak Vista/Win7 to reduce the bloat. Even with those settings, Vista and Win7 still take up more screenspace than XP does. The screencap that you linked to demonstrates that bloat.

        While the Win7 taskbar may improve usability and reduce taskbar clutter over the default taskbar in Vista, it still does not improve it over XP.
        Every UI modification that I’ve seen for Vista/Win7 that reduces screen bloat ends up trying to reproduce the trimmer appearance of a finely tuned XP.

        So when all is said and done, you haven’t actually explained why Win7 is preferrable over WinXP for a netbook…. only explained why you think Win7’s UI isn’t as bad as Vista’s. Certainly not a ringing endorsement for Win7 on netbooks.

        1. Haven’t installed Windows 7 myself, but from what I’ve heard/read the potential advantages might be:

          – better SSD performance (unproven, to be tested, so far all I’ve seen is they will disable services like defragmentation automatically)
          – better power management (again, to be tested)
          – quicker boot times (haven’t seen this one prove out yet vs. XP)
          – quicker shutdown times (to be tested)

          Also it does seem to me like some of the stuff, like the device stage, and the announcement service (replacing all those icons in your tray), and the icon based task bar are more space efficient than Windows XP.

          Some of the stuff like the home group could be useful if you have other Windows 7 PCs on your home network, or you actually use your netbook on your corporate network (unlikely?) so maybe don’t matter so much.

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