There seem to be a number of sites linking to a prominent “news” site that claims Windows 7 will be “crippled” on netbooks but… WTF? Are they serious, or just posting link bait?
Back in February, Microsoft announced the various editions that Windows 7 will be available in, including Starter Edition, which will only be offered pre-installed by OEMs and is recommended for price-sensitive customers with small notebook PCs.
Basically, that sounds like a low cost version for netbooks. – and key features were listed as:
- Broad application and device compatibility with up to 3 concurrent applications.
- Safe, reliable, and supported.
- Ability to join a Home Group.
- Improved taskbar and JumpLists.
Now someone has stirred things up and headline-grabbing tech-“journalists” (I use the term lightly… these are not the Mary-Jo Foleys, Ed Botts, or Paul Thurrotts who actually look at the technology and when researching stories but consumer-focused writers with a few press releases and 500 words to churn out for an editor who wants nothing more than a good headline) are saying how this will kill Windows 7 sales and open the netbook market to Linux. Yawn. Have I suddenly fallen foul of a cross-site scripting exploit and ended up reading Slashdot, or The Register? Nope. It seems I am still reading Computerworld, a site that seems to think words like Ed Bott or ZDNet turn my comment into spam!
It’s the three application limit that seems to have people up in arms but, according to Paul Thurrott in episode 103 of the Windows Weekly podcast and Ed Bott’s recent post on living with the limits of Windows 7 Starter Edition, the three application limit is not triggered by things like Explorer windows, Control Panel applets, system utilities or gadgets – this is three applications – not three Windows!
And, as I wrote when I bought one a few months back, netbooks are not for content creation but for ultra-mobile content consumption. You’re not going be doing much on a 10″ screen with a tiny keyboard! Not unless you want to end up with a bad repetitive strain injury.
Mary-Jo Foley reminds us that Home Premium is the default consumer version of Windows 7 – not Starter Edition. Who says that netbook OEMs will not provide Home Premium for those who want it?
Meanwhile, Ed Bott made a very good point when he wrote “Is this a netbook or a notebook? If the answer is netbook, you might be pleasantly surprised at what this low-powered OS can actually accomplish” but he also notes that, if he tried to use it as a conventional notebook, he “would probably be incredibly frustrated with the limitations of Starter Edition.” And Laptop magazine wisely commented that any comment has limited value until we know the price difference between a netbook with Windows 7 Starter Edition and the same netbook with Windows 7 Home Premium, a view which Mary-Jo Foley also puts forward in her post.
To me, it’s simple:
- If your netbook can handle more than three applications and you need more functionality than Starter Edition offers, then pay for a version of Windows that will meet your requirements (pre-release versions of Windows 7 Ultimate Edition ran just fine on my Lenovo S10e before it started a new life as a Hackintosh).
- If you want a free operating system then install Linux (although some reports suggest that Linux netbook returns are higher than for XP as, even Ubuntu’s distributors acknowledge that it’s unfamiliar to consumers).
- If you just want to access a few things on the move using a netbook, then Windows 7 Starter Edition will probably be fine.
If I was a betting man, I’d wager that most netbook users fall into the latter category.