Windows

The three-application limit is out, Windows 7 Starter on netbooks is back in

After some very pointed and passionate feedback from users in the marketplace, Microsoft has decided to make some changes to Windows 7 when it comes to netbooks. In this edition of the Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report, Greg Shultz describes what has changed.

As you may recall, in a recent blog, Is Microsoft Shooting Its Other Foot with Windows 7 on Netbooks? I was reminiscing about my 1995 HP Jornada and looking forward to getting a netbook with Windows 7 on it. I haven't been ready to jump to Linux yet, and the thought of buying a 2009 computer running a 2001 operating system just doesn't seem right to me. However, when I discovered that Microsoft had designated Windows 7 Starter as the operating system for netbooks and that this version was limited to running three concurrent applications, I was bewildered, confused, and annoyed.

I can easily live without all the Windows 7 extras on a netbook, but the thought of not being able to run more than three applications at a time just sounded ludicrous. I was so angry that I was tempted to throw out my reservations and go ahead and get a netbook running Windows XP or even, possibly, Linux. However, cooler heads prevailed, and I decided to wait and see what would happen over time as Microsoft listened to the cries of other Windows users looking forward to Windows 7 on netbooks.

Well, in a recent edition of the Windows 7 Team Blog, Brandon LeBlanc announced:

"...based on the feedback we've received from partners and customers asking us to enable a richer small notebook PC experience with Windows 7 Starter, we've decided to make some changes compared to previous Starter editions.

For the first time, we will be making Windows 7 Starter available worldwide on small notebook PCs. We are also going to enable Windows 7 Starter customers the ability to run as many applications simultaneously as they would like, instead of being constricted to the 3 application limit that the previous Starter editions included."

When I read this, I was very happy to learn that Microsoft was indeed listening and willing to adapt their plans to the wishes of its customers who want to be able to use Windows 7 on a netbook.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

What doesn't Windows 7 Starter have?

As I mentioned, I can easily live without all the Windows 7 extras on a netbook. After all, my thought is that Netbooks are not intended to have the full capabilities of a desktop computer. Rather it is intended to be a supplement to your main computer. And, it is designed to be much more portable than a laptop.

My idea of a netbook is a streamlined mobile device about 10-inches long (with a 9- or 10-inch screen), about 8-inches wide, and weighing about 2 to 3 pounds, and it is designed primarily for accessing the Internet -- getting news, weather, and sports information, participating on social networks, accessing e-mail, viewing videos/photos, and listening to music. (Just in case you were wondering, the word netbook is a portmanteau of the words Internet and notebook.)

However, not everyone shares this concept of a netbook and may want it to do more. As such, those folks may be wondering just what Windows 7 extras aren't included in the Starter version? Again, I'll quote Brandon LeBlanc:

"It is important to note that Windows 7 Starter still includes only a subset of the features offered in the higher editions of Windows 7 such as Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional and above. Windows 7 Starter does not include:
  • Aero Glass, meaning you can only use the "Windows Basic" or other opaque themes. It also means you do not get Taskbar Previews or Aero Peek.
  • Personalization features for changing desktop backgrounds, window colors, or sound schemes.
  • The ability to switch between users without having to log off.
  • Multi-monitor support.
  • DVD playback.
  • Windows Media Center for watching recorded TV or other media.
  • Remote Media Streaming for streaming your music, videos, and recorded TV from your home computer.
  • Domain support for business customers.
  • XP Mode for those that want the ability to run older Windows XP programs on Windows 7."

If you want the portability of a netbook but want the power and features of a more advanced version of Windows 7, you'll be glad to hear that LeBlanc goes on to say:

"Windows 7 Starter should not be considered "the netbook SKU" as most machines in this category can run any edition of Windows 7."

However, you have to imagine that a netbook running Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Ultimate will definitely cost more than a netbook running Windows 7 Starter.

What's your take?

What's your definition of a netbook? Would you buy a netbook with Windows 7 Starter on it now that Microsoft has removed the three-application limitation? Would you rather buy a netbook with Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Ultimate? If so, would you balk at a higher price point? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

TechRepublic's Windows Vista and Windows 7 Report newsletter, delivered every Friday, offers tips, news, and scuttlebutt on Vista and Windows 7, including a look at new features in the latest version of the Windows OS. Automatically sign up today!

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

29 comments
n.smutz
n.smutz

These omissions seem like they're meant to annoy the user into buying a "full-version." Are they going to sell a media-center upgrade? A while back, Microsoft was pushing a cheap, crippled version of Windows to compete with Linux in the third world. The arbitrary limit on open applications rings a bell. Merging bloat-control with their crippleware project seems like a bad idea. Maybe the folks in the third-world will benefit as big M tries to please richer people who didn't think they were buying the "cheap" OS. Personally, I'm always a bit offended when man-hours and resources are deliberately spent to make something worse.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

My biggest question for MS would be, If Windows 7 really does have a small enough footprint to allow any edition to run on netbooks, why even waste the corporate resources (and drive the price up) in developing Win 7 Starter? Make a higher edition the standard for OEM, including more features like domain support, media center, and personalization; and make more users more likely to upgrade by doing so.

gerardocabrera
gerardocabrera

The question now is: What means W7 will don't have "Domain support for business customers"?

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

If netbooks are designed for road warriors why disable domain support? Does this mean they have to transfer files from corporate LAN to USB, then to netbook?

richard.wilson
richard.wilson

Where is your proof that, as you claim, "I discovered that Microsoft had designated Windows 7 Starter as the operating system for netbooks..." Where is this information? (Or is this more anti-MS propaganda from TR?) I have scoured the internet and cannot find ONE source besides this site and links to this site that make that claim. From ars technica: Brad Brooks, corporate vice president for Windows Consumer Product Marketing, claims that Windows 7 has a smaller OS footprint, faster boot-up and shut-down times, improved power management for enhanced battery life, and other improvements that will make it possible for all Windows 7 editions to run on netbooks. "These engineering investments allow small notebook PCs to run any version of Windows 7, and allow customers complete flexibility to purchase a system which meets their needs," said Brooks in a statement. "For OEMs that build lower-cost small notebook PCs, Windows 7 Starter will now be available in developed markets. For the most enhanced, full-functioning Windows experience on small notebook PCs, however, consumers will want to go with Windows 7 Home Premium, which lets you get the most out of your digital media and easily connect with other PCs." In other words, Microsoft is saying that any edition of Windows 7 will work on netbooks. It all depends on what the OEM will be offering. For example, if you can get Windows 7 Starter Edition on your netbook, you could later on move up (using Windows Anytime Upgrade) to whatever version you like (remember, every Windows 7 edition is a superset of the previous one). Alternatively, you could just start off with a higher-end edition like Ultimate, assuming the OEM offers it for the netbook you want to buy. It looks like many will be doing a lot of price calculating to figure out which route is cheaper. http://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2009/02/microsoft-answers-windows-7-netbook-question.ars Well, I'm no genius, but I can actually read. If I'm reading correctly, (please let me know if I'm not Greg) it is up to the OEM and your personal preferrences to what version of Windows 7 you get. I still have yet to find ONE source that says "Microsoft had designated Windows 7 Starter as the operating system for netbooks..." So please, just for my satisfaction, please site where you got this information.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I love the netbook idea. I've seen a few and set one up for a co-worker. The main problem I have is the 1024x600 resolution that most of them have. They really need to get that up to 1024x768 to make it usable. I know there are one or two that do, but they all need to get there.

hpkaplan
hpkaplan

For web surfing, simple document preparation, email, and skyping, XP is just fine.

rick
rick

Can it be that Bill's Boyz are actually listening to us?

parnote
parnote

Where is the option for none-of-the-above??? Where is the option for "I'll stick with Linux" on my netbook??? For me, I'll stick with running PCLinuxOS on my netbook. It's free, VERY stable, and **VERY** secure (as in NO VIRUSES). Plus, it runs incredibly well; my netbook running PCLinuxOS is very responsive, and I don't have to put up with the limitations imposed by a stripped down, half-baked operating system.

pyrrhus62
pyrrhus62

I'm currently running Windows 7 RC (which is the "Ultimate" version by default) in a dual-boot on a 40GB partition on my MSI Wind netbook (1.6 GB Intel Atom, 2GB RAM) with no issues/problems whatsoever. Why is Microsoft so determined to market all these flavors of Windows 7? It seems to me that this was one of the problems with Vista. How about one version, call it 7, and be done with it?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

of thread comments across the site. What will the moan about now?

john3347
john3347

Three application limit was never a factor and never would have been a factor to me. I don't use tabs in IE or Firefox and only occasionally have more than one application open at a time anyway, never more than 3 or 4. I'm not very good at multitasking, so I don't need a multitasking computer. I just need a computer to be stable and "go where I need it to go" without freezing and having to be re-booted 3 times a day.

vpepe2
vpepe2

The system should have a notice window to tell the user how many applications are in progress and warn when going over three. Imagine the chaos if too many apps are going at once especially if the user is a novice or computer illiterate.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What?s your definition of a netbook? Would you buy a netbook with Windows 7 Starter on it now that Microsoft has removed the three application limitation? Would rather buy a netbook with Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Ultimate? If so, would you balk at a higher price point?

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

If you think that domain support is the only way to connect to a network share, it's time to change careers.

Kim SJ
Kim SJ

I own three netbooks, including one with xp and flash, one with linux and flash and one with linux and hd. the last one is the one I use for everyday use. It is more stable and faster than the others. (Although I installed Ubuntu because I hated the Linpus abortion...) My conclusion is that the Ubuntu one performs much better, is more stable, and is the right choice for the netbook, even though my main laptop is Vista-based.

TNT
TNT

Okay Parnote, we get you love Linux, but for those of us who have to live in a Windows corporate environment and need Windows to run the software corporate demands, Linux just isn't a good option. I tried running Linux on my work laptop and it just wasn't a good fit. BTW, have you tried Win7? It's an amazing OS. Microsoft will win a lot of Linux and Apple users over with this offering, providing the multiple versions don't muddy the waters and providing they keep the Pro version at a decent price point. As for Win7 on a netbook, I'm game to try. I just bought an Acer AspireOne last weekend with XP on it and it seems great. Turned off a lot of XP's services I don't use to speed things up and, now, I couldn't be happier. I may try a dual-boot with Win7 when available.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Ubuntu can do Compiz, which is far more impressive (although probably just as useless) as any eye candy Vista/Windows 7 is capable of with Aero, on an Eee PC 701 running at 600 Mhz. Overclock it to the native 900 Mhz, and it won't even break a sweat doing it. So why would you disable the Aero features of Win 7 on modern Netbooks - which will soon have Dual Core processors? When all is said and done, it sounds to me like XP will remain the most full featured, powerful OS for Netbooks moving forward.

dev_iant
dev_iant

Good to see them getting rid of the 3 item limit, which would have been a pain, though I could have lived with a 4 or 5 item limit. However, surely one of the obvious uses for a netbook is to run DVD (with external drive, obviously) and/or streaming video. Seems a strange omission. For now, I'll stick with XP Home on mine as I have no reason to upgrade - runs Firefox, my dictionary, crossword dictionary & family history software just fine, and that's what I use it for most of the time. Though, if anyone can suggest a small database to run on it...

bmaryott
bmaryott

The problem with Starter is that we're not the target audience. I use a netbook for going on site, making notes, diagnosing wireless problems, etc. Unless they manage to get an AMAZING suite of software ready to go at launch "No XP Mode for those that want the ability to run older Windows XP programs on Windows 7" means it's next to useless for me. I'll stick with my Netbook with XPHome on it. It runs the diagnosis stuff, lets me contact the office, etc. When I'm at a remote office, I can link to a regular keyboard/mouse AND MONITOR (no Multi-monitor support?) and do the work I need. As a tech, I give Starter a pass. The problem Microsoft will face is we're the early adopters who people will question about this. Except for my friend's 8 year old for class work, and my 80+ year old grandfather who is housebound (Will this thing support the EVENTUAL update to Skype and a webcam?) there's no one I will be recommending this to.

TexasJetter
TexasJetter

I guess my post was not well phrased, but I don't think it is time for me to change careers. Domain support offers a single point of logon authentication. We have multiple shares/resources with different level of privileges, so without it users will be required to log on multiple times. Not a big deal to me, but Netbooks are not targeted to IT. At least in our office the ones that get laptops are not IT, and are generally not the most advanced computer users. I would get endless questions as to why they have to log on to each share separately, and it would never fail that they forget to log on to the resource before attempting to use it. In short it is a "different" experience and mode of use. In my world different equates to bad (in terms of user acceptance). Which leads me to the basis of my original post. If they want Netbooks to be taken seriously in the enterprise it should support enterprise tools, like domain authentication.

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

Agreed that corporate environments are MS, but what niche does a netbook fill in corporate America? Add a stripped down Windows OS, you can't log into a domain. It's a toy to screw around on the web at coffee shops. I bought one, its fun its neat, but as a business tool?

mckinnej
mckinnej

Parnote didn't say anything about you or anyone else switching to or staying with Linux. His main concern was the survey didn't even have an option for that. Certainly a valid point. Me personally, I wish the OS would go away. It doesn't "do" anything, or at least it isn't supposed to. "Everyone" has lathered on apps and junk and called them part of the OS when they aren't. I think we would all be amazed at what our hardware could do if the OS was simply an OS. Of course the hardware manufacturers wouldn't be too happy about that because we would all (mostly) be happy with hardware we had a few years ago. Ditto for the OS creators.

john.parker
john.parker

without their movies and tunes on the red-eye to never-land? What's a netbook worth if you've gotta lug around an additional 10 lbs of junk to keep from suicidal boredom on the midnight plane to nowhere? What was Microsoft thinking? At least with XP you can still indulge in your amusements at a reasonable cost while using the light weight netbooks on the road or around the pool.

ak87
ak87

I have been running Windows 7 since the RC came out and have tried over 100 different applications and not one problem (over half of them are from early XP era) some were for work and some for pleasure but all worked. Also you can't use XP mode on a netbook the processor is not compatible heres from microsofts website "Note: You can use Windows Virtual PC to run Windows XP Mode on your computer. Windows Virtual PC requires processor capable of hardware virtualization, with AMD-V? or Intel? VT turned on in the BIOS." (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=0e8fa9b3-c236-4b77-be26-173f032f5159) and the only atom processors with VT are the Z520-Z550 which I have not seen in netbooks yet the only on is the N270 and on top of that most netbooks carry 2 gigs of ram tops now maybe that will change soon i don't know but I do know is that the current crop of netbooks can not handle xp mode even if they could. Instead you can do a great thing before you install the program, goto the file right click on it and just like you would enable it to run windows 95 compatibility you can do the same but with xp, but then again i dont know if microsoft will remove this feature on the final product but I assume if they do it will be a simple registry hack. Next why would you want multi-mon support on a netbook, keyboard and mouse yes but multi-mon having a 19" display and a 10.1" that seem bothersome and not very helpful. I know from experience you can disable the screen on the netbook and use a regular monitor instead. And DVD playback disabled, please there is this great light and free program called VLC works great and if you need to manage mp3's well iTunes works.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

Point taken, however, since everyone from the retailers to the software companies to the hardware companies are taking a hit in profit margins in order to make netbooks attractive, you can have your XP Pro or Vista Business or Windows 7 Enterprise, etc but just be willing to pay more. In addition, some features such as BitLocker and Aeroglass probably won't run well so get ready to disable them. Hey, bottom line and I wasn't trying to jump on you is that netbooks come with certain inherent advantages and some inherent disadvantages...like most things in life. Be prepared to deal with it.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

. . . this is a Windows article, not a Linux article. While Parnote is certainly not alone in wanting to stick with Linux, his comment really doesn't relate to the author's text. The survey didn't have a "none of the above" option for Linux-lovers because the article wasn't about changing from Linux to Win 7, or from Windows to Linux, so his point is not valid. It was about current Windows users upgrading from XP or Vista to Win 7 Starter on a new netbook. If you love Linux, by all means, love it. But don't clog up the comments here. There are plenty of other threads for whether users want to switch to Linux. If someone's considering that switch, those are the articles they will be reading.

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