Microsoft Windows 7, the Starter Edition

Windows 7 Channel Insider has an article up discussing the pros and cons of Microsoft’s plans as far as netbooks and the upcoming Windows 7. Specifically, they discuss the Windows 7 Starter Edition, which is going to be a stripped-down version of the “regular” Windows 7 versions/distributions. One of the worst aspects of the Starter Edition will be the fact that it only allows for three applications to be run concurrently.

There will also be some advanced features missing, which I don’t think will be as important (for most) as the three application limit, but CI makes a good case for the Windows 7 Starter Edition versus the Windows XP Home edition that ships with many current netbooks:

The big question is, Will customers be willing to pay for an OS that is arguably less capable than Windows XP Home edition, which is currently found on the majority of netbook computers? Netbooks have proved to be a challenge for Microsoft—the company has had to make special exceptions to get netbook vendors to put a Microsoft OS on those systems, the end result being a step backward down to Windows XP.

They point out what many of us have experienced – where Vista ran poorly on ultraportable netbooks/sub-notebooks, Windows 7 (beta) runs much better and provides for a better overall experience, even when compared to the performance of XP Home (especially in the networking area).

They do make a crucial point that Microsoft can’t ignore: If Microsoft (and the manufacturers who will be working on what editions are shipped with various netbook models) botch it and start pushing out netbooks with the Starter Edition, Apple could very well gain quite a bit with the release of their own netbook. Chances are high that any netbook shipping from Apple is going to ship with a version of Mac OS X that resembles what you see with the MacBook and with the Mac mini (and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s the same OS X that ships on their consumer products). Apple is very proud of the fact that they’ve managed to scale OS X down to the iPhone, and you also have a huge unofficial (highly unofficial) group of netbook users who have worked out how to install OS X on just about every type of netbook you can imagine. OS X runs well on these devices. Apple also makes use (or has in the past) of the fact that they basically have two versions of OS X they ship (three if you count the iPhone) – the consumer/client version, and the server version. They don’t have a Home or a Home Premium or a Professional or a Business or an Ultimate version.

Microsoft takes a huge risk when trying to push a version of Windows 7 that would restrict you to three applications, and Channel Insider mentions the advertising benefits that Apple would reap:

How will Apple respond to the launch of Windows 7 Starter Edition? I can picture the cute commercials now. Imagine a Mac commercial where the PC guy is shown juggling a couple of balls, the Mac Guy walks in juggling dozens of balls and throws one ball in the PC Guy’s direction, and the PC Guy drops everything

The ads would write themselves, as many American consumers have not experienced a “Starter” edition of Microsoft Windows, and would be extremely upset to find out after the fact that their netbooks with Windows 7 can’t do as much as their netbooks with Windows XP. Retailers would not be happy with Microsoft or the manufacturers, as they would bear the brunt of consumer anger and confusion.

Read: Channel Insider