Why MS should drop Win7 Starter Edition

Samsung netbook
Samsung may offer proper editions of Windows 7 on netbooks, if the royalty fees allow it

When we spoke to Samsung's Kyu Uhm about netbooks, he had good news and bad news: the good news is that "of course" Samsung is developing Windows 7 netbooks; the bad news is that Microsoft wants them to be craptops, not laptops.

"Currently Microsoft provides Windows XP for netbooks," Uhm told us. "For Windows 7 they would like to give us Windows 7 Starter Edition for netbooks. That's the current plan."

According to reports, Starter Edition is essentially Windows 7 with a completely arbitrary three-application limit. This restriction is "designed to ensure that users get the best possible performance" from their netbook. That's kind, isn't it? Why not go the whole hog and slap the Windows 7 logo on MS-DOS? That'd go like lightning!

What makes it particularly daft is that according to Microsoft's own studies, 70% of users have between eight and 15 application windows open at any given time - so Microsoft is deliberately shipping an OS that can't do what its customers need it to do.

Of course netbook users aren't as demanding, but we suspect the three-app number has been plucked out of the air. Running Word, email, instant messenger and one more app is hardly extreme computing.

It's all about money, of course. Manufacturers currently pay around £20 for Windows XP (that's the price difference between two otherwise identical netbooks running Linux and Windows XP) but if current Vista pricing is anything to go by, the full version of Windows 7 will price netbooks out of most people's hands.

For example, an HP Mini 2140 running Linux is £381. Same machine running Vista? Between £500 and £600. Microsoft is right when it says OEMs have a choice: they can choose between selling an affordable netbook with a crippled version of Windows 7, or they can sell the proper version and price their own kit out of the market. Some choice.

We do understand Microsoft's dilemma. If it gives netbook firms a decent price, desktop and laptop makers will scream blue murder. But selling a deliberately crippled version of the operating system is daft. By all means get rid of touch support, Media Center and other things netbook users don't need, but in its current incarnation Starter Edition is nothing more than a brilliant promotional tool for Linux.


Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.