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Summary:

Microsoft plans to offer six different versions of Windows 7 when it ships later this year, but OEMs that sell netbooks will likely offer a slimmed-down number of versions.  HP recently told Computer World they will offer three different versions for their Mini line, which is […]

cimg1281Microsoft plans to offer six different versions of Windows 7 when it ships later this year, but OEMs that sell netbooks will likely offer a slimmed-down number of versions.  HP recently told Computer World they will offer three different versions for their Mini line, which is keeping in line with current Vista offerings.

HP will offer the new Starter Edition for those who are price-conscious, and Home Premium and Professional Editions for those wanting more power.  Home Premium is the version that will likely make it on most netbooks such as the HP Minis, which is most like the Vista versions currently shipping on lower-end notebooks.

Pricing will play a big role in these versions, of course, and in the low-price netbook space, an even bigger role than in others.  This is why HP and others will make the Starter Edition available as an option to keep the cost as low as possible.  I believe that only the novice computer user will select the Starter Edition and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone due to the one glaring limitation that this version will enforce.

Microsoft has stated that the Starter Edition will only allow three programs to run at once, which is a major limitation in my view.  I wouldn’t advise anyone I know to get Starter, which will limit what can be done with a new computer that has just been purchased.  How big is this limitation?  Huge in my book, even for the Aunt Sues who may think that three programs is plenty to run at once.

What isn’t clear is what counts toward the three program limit.  Does a third party anti-virus program count as one of the three?  Everybody needs to run that all the time.  What about anti-spyware?  That three-program limit could end up being one or two actual user programs at a time, if so.  That could limit the usefulness of such a computer even more than the limit of three.

A typical user has the web browser open doing a little surfing or watching YouTube video.  They may also have iTunes (or other music app) open alongside the browser and probably an IM program to chat with friends.  That’s fine and dandy; even Windows 7 Starter Edition will handle those three programs at once.  The problem comes in when an email comes in and the user clicks to open the attached photo of the grandkids.  No can do, firing up the photo viewer would exceed the limit of three programs.  One of the other apps will have to be closed before the pic of Junior can be viewed.

I don’t believe this is an extreme case at all; these are things I see users doing all the time.  I believe that frustration will run rampant with folks who buy a new computer with Starter Edition installed who then keep running up against the three-program limit.  They’re not going to get mad at Microsoft, either; no, they will curse the maker of the notebook (or netbook), such as HP.  I hope the HPs realize this and make this limit clear at purchase time.

  1. CupcakesAndBunnies Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    it probably works just like the Task Manager, separating processes from applications. no doubt the 3 limit will be based on whats in applications.

    i have a feeling offering starter edition is going to come back to bite companies in the ass BIGTIME. kind of like all those netbooks running Linux being returned.

    when i was younger i used to believe that despite what people said, the people running all these companies were very smart. but the more decisions i see like this, or $2,000 UMPC’s (HTC Shift), no market place MID’s, etc, the more i believe those people were right afterall.

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  2. All of this is just guesswork. Where is this research that shows ‘average users’ as using a browser while watching You Tube in another app? I run a busy computer club, and spend a lot of time checking out statistics, and I see nothing to support this opinion. To the contrary! While it is true that some people do as you say, many others could function quite well thank you very much with a 3-app limit. My guess is that a starter version will suit a very large number of users – possibly even a majority.

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  3. @Lamaan — Apparently MS claims the avg. user runs about two apps at a time: http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/02/09/1348255&from=rss

    I’d assume Kevin is running exactly one at any given point in time, his brows… eh, cloud program. ;)

    I have actually forced myself to not run a ton of programs on my HP 2133 because the darn thing is just too slow, even with 2 GB of RAM and XP. It feels like it’s getting slower by the day, actually.

    But yeah, why would you save a few bucks and put an artificial limit on what you can run?

    I imagine it won’t be long before some hacker somewhere figures out how to eliminate the limit. Reminds me of the good old days when I was rooting through the machine code of Apple II games to increase the number of lives/ships/bullets in games.

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  4. GoodThings2Life Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    I think 5 concurrent applications would be a reasonable limit… even as I write this I have Firefox, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Messenger, and Zune running. That leaves me one more app that would be “flexible”. If I shut down the Zune app to “focus on work” that gives me 2.

    This is assuming, of course, that the limit is imposed by what’s listed on the “applications” tab of Task Manager as CupcakesandBunnies suggests.

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  5. This will hurt netbooks very badly. I think netbooks work great because you get the same experience you get on your notebook or desktop. Consumers will hit the 3 app limit a few times and have a bad taste in their mouth.

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  6. Windows 7 Starter Edition is just silly. Microsoft needs to take a closer look at Apple’s pricing on Leopard. Over at Fry’s, it’s either $129 for a one-user license or $199 for a 5-machine pack.

    Having multiple flavors of Windows 7, not to mention full and upgrade, etc. is way too confusing.

    Ah, the days when there was only 1 version of Windows….

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  7. This is great news for Linux; now the Microsoft netbooks will be the ones constantly returned… ;)

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  8. just my thought … i linux distro running – all included – no frills – for free

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  9. This is just silly.

    Window has been available in a Starter Edition since the end of 2006, with XP Starter Edition – which had the same feature set, including the 3 app limit.

    A modicum of research – by typing “windows xp starter edition” into Google – revealed this as the first search result:

    http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/newsroom/winxp/WinXPStarterFS.mspx

    I expect Win 7 Starter will be sold to exactly the same markets as the XP and Vista version. It is somewhat sad that the entire blogosphere is commenting hot air off the Windows 7 press release without doing a bit a basic fact checking.

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  10. to say the least … it was even silly by the redmonder’s to sell an xp starter by then. NOT the community is silly but …

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