As a follow-up to earlier news of Microsoft formally announcing the various Windows 7 product editions, Paul Thurrott has taken a good look at the information and broken it down, product edition by product edition.
The good news is, you should be able to pick up a netbook in the future, and if it has Windows 7 Starter, you can pay the difference and upgrade to a better version of Windows 7. Otherwise you’ll have the limitations that Thurrott mentions:
Windows 7 Starter
Market: Worldwide availability this time but with new PCs only
Key features: Enhanced taskbar, Jump Lists, Windows Media Player, Backup and Restore, Action Center, Device Stage, Play To, Fax and Scan, basic games
What’s missing: Aero Glass, many Aero desktop enhancements, Windows Touch, Media Center, Live thumbnail previews, Home Group creation
This version will only be sold through PC makers to users, but unlike with Vista, it will be sold worldwide. This suggests that netbook makers will choose this version, even in the US. As with previous Windows Starter Edition products, it is limited in some ways: You can run only three applications at once, don’t get Windows 7’s full mobility capabilities, and can participate in but not create a Home Group. Also, there’s no Aero Glass.
One thing Paul brings up – if you have Windows XP loaded on your laptop or netbook, and you want to move up to Windows 7, you will have to do a complete clean install – you won’t be able to upgrade “in-place”. MS is working to make this an easier process, but it will involve backing up your data somewhere (and MS has indicated they have tools to help with this).