Windows Starter gets new market: Netbooks

Microsoft's entry-level Windows, previously limited to emerging markets, will now also be offered on low-cost PCs in developed countries.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
2 min read

For many years now, Microsoft has offered a "starter edition" of Windows aimed at first-time PC buyers in emerging markets. Though low-cost, the starter version has limitations such as only working on low-end processors, smaller screen resolutions and a cap on the number of programs that can run at one time.

Similar restrictions will remain with Windows 7, but Microsoft will allow the operating system to be used in a new way--to power low-cost computers, particularly Netbooks, in developed countries.

Microsoft confirmed its plans for Windows 7 Starter on Tuesday, as part of its announcement that it will offer six different versions of the operating system. Although Windows Starter will be an option for Netbooks, its limitations mean that computer makers will probably also offer models that run Home Premium.

"For (computer makers) that build lower-cost small notebook PCs, Windows 7 Starter will now be available in developed markets," Microsoft Vice President Brad Brooks said in an article posted on Microsoft's Web site. "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 an interview this week, Senior Vice President Bill Veghte said that Microsoft will place restrictions on the kinds of processors and screen resolutions that will be supported by Windows 7 Starter, but declined to detail the limitations. Windows 7 Starter also won't support features like multitouch or Media Center.

Just the three simultaneous application limit, though, could be enough to push many away from Starter. Three applications may sound like a decent number, until you remember those two instant messaging programs you like to run. Plus, there are all kinds of things that run in the background, such as antivirus software and other programs. Microsoft said that background services running in the system tray don't automatically count against the three program limit, but do count if a user opens up the full program associated with the service.