Operating Systems

Windows 7 Starter Breaks Away From App Restrictions

In a departure from what it did with Windows XP and Windows Vista, Microsoft has decided to give users of Window 7 Starter on small notebook PCs — netbooks — the ability to run as many applications simultaneously as they would like. The original plan had been to limit users of the Windows 7 Starter edition to three simultaneous applications, excluding background processes such as antivirus applications, wireless and Bluetooth, and system tools like Explorer and Control Panel.

The new policy, announced in Brandon LeBlanc’s blog http://windowsteamblog.com/blogs/windows7/archive/2009/05/29/let-s-talk-about-windows-7-starter.aspx, was a response to feedback the company has received from partners and customers.

The Starter version of the OS will have some limitations, he cautioned. It “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.”

What It Doesn’t Have

Following are some of the features Windows 7 Starter does not include, according to LeBlanc:

  • Aero Glass. Users can only use the “Windows Basic” or other opaque themes. Nor do users 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 music, videos, and recorded TV from a home computer;
  • Domain support for business customers; and
  • XP Mode for those who want the ability to run older Windows XP programs on Windows 7.

Microsoft did not return a call to TechNewsWorld in time for publication.

Smart Choice

The decision to lift the limits is a smart choice on Microsoft’s part, given the market reality it is facing with the netbooks and their price points, Rob Helm, managing VP of research for Directions on Microsoft, told TechNewsWorld.

No doubt, Microsoft is hoping to see significant traffic with the full Windows OS version, in both the Windows Professional and Windows Home Premium offerings.

“Microsoft, though, is acknowledging the reality that this category of device is not going to go away and that it is useful to have a low cost, full version for the netbooks,” said Helm.

If nothing else, it will encourage users to buy more applications for the devices, he suggested. “It will also stave off Android and other open source variants from getting too deep a foothold in the netbook market.”

Price Points and Competition

The success of Microsoft’s strategy depend on how it prices the various versions, according to Helm. “There is no way that Microsoft can get the same margins out of these devices that it has from PCs. So if the Starter Edition is priced too close the Premium or Pro, the number of apps that can run on Starter may be a moot distinction.”

Looming competition from Android will go far to keep prices in line, predicted Scott Testa, marketing professor at St. Joseph’s University.

“Android is getting a lot of buzz in the netbook market — Microsoft sees it as a threat,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Also, Microsoft got a lot of backlash when it first unveiled its watered down version of Windows 7, noted Testa, and it may be leery of antagonizing any user base.

Ghost of Vista

Indeed, still smarting from the troubles surrounding Windows Vista, Redmond appears to be taking few chances with the rollout of Windows 7.

For instance, at the beginning of the year, Microsoft decided to make the Windows 7 public beta available on a limited basis to the first 2.5 million users who accessed it, which triggered an onslaught of traffic that crashed the site soon after the code was posted.

It was back up a day later, accompanied by a new policy that allowed any number of users to access the beta during the time frame it would be made available for download.

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