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Windows 7 Starter

Over the last several months I’ve been saying to anyone that listens (including at Web09 on Friday), that Netbooks are going to be one of the most significant tech industry opportunities that has occurred for a while.

The impact on Google Android and Chrome in Q3 this year will put pressure on Microsoft to reduce the cost of the Windows and Office Client which I predict will drive a massive secondary effect where we will see substantial innovation in services from Microsoft. Microsoft has a huge war chest and thousands of smart people to throw at services.

I also believe that low cost connected devices will be be taken to market via telco’s, often with a low (or no) up front cost in exchange for a data plan commitment.

Today Windows 7 Starter was announced: Microsoft Gambles on Windows 7 ‘Starter’

The strategy is one of the ways the software giant is responding to inexpensive portable computers called netbooks, a bright spot in the gloomy personal-computer business that is causing many companies to modify their business plans.

Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation’s executive director, thinks Microsoft faces the greatest pressure as the computer market takes on more aspects of the cellphone market — with carriers subsidizing hardware prices with fees for data-service plans.

This is really interesting. Microsoft’s approach to Netbook computing is to offer a limited version of Windows that is limited to only run 3 applications at a time.  That is completely logical from a Microsoft perspective (and I should have picked that – I didn’t).

Will it be free?  I doubt it.  Will it be cheap? Of course – but I’m just reading Predictably Irrational which has some great experiments on the power of ‘free’. There is a massive difference between cheap and free.  They will have to compete with free. This is a big call for Microsoft and one that I don’t think will be successful.  But they should absolutely still try it.  This will be a fascinating experiment to watch.

I think we’ll still end up in the same place. It all becomes about the services.

So very, very interesting that some of the announcements you would expect under my Netbook hypothesis are beginning to fire.

Exciting times.

 

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11 comments

lubos
20 April 2009 #

I’m almost certain they will succeed. Not everything is about cost otherwise Xero would be bankrupt and GnuCash would be the most popular accounting package ever.

Additionally, Windows 7 cost will be included in price of device so people are not going to be as much sensitive to it. My bet is that people will demand Windows-based netbooks (even if it costs them 20 bucks extra). Buying Windows-based device is a safe choice for 90% of population and OEM versions of Windows are so cheap anyway. they are worth money.

John-Daniel Trask
21 April 2009 #

Microsoft already provides a starter edition of Vista. I believe it also had the limit on concurrent applications.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/compare-editions/starter.aspx

The real difference seems to be that it will now be available in countries that have reasonable income levels + with netbooks it has even more reason to exist and gives more focus.

Michael Koziarski
21 April 2009 #

I believe the completely-crippled starter edition was only ever marketed in ‘developing economies’? Perhaps this is more a statement on income adjustment in the developed world than a strategic move? ;)

Scott
21 April 2009 #

A 3 ‘application’ limit is just a joke. It’s windows, so one of those will have to be anti-malware.

Presumably one other will be your browser?

So with our last remaining app or process, you’ve got the choice of switching between an Instant Message client, and what ever client app viewer you might need Acrobat, Word, Excel, etc?

Presumably, they’ll sell you the upgrade to remove the 3 app/process limit, but it is a ridiculous level of crippling.

Lets not even contemplate all those applications out there which use another process to self-update. Could the arbitrary process limit could actually pose a security threat? Seems likely.

Dermott Renner
21 April 2009 #

Netbooks by definition so far are crippled hardware wise so Microsoft offering a cut down or crippled version of Vista or W7 therefore makes senses.

This is why the one sized shoe fits all theory does not work in the real world. What a sales or marketing person may need (Word, Excel and Outlook) is different to what a software developer needs or a graphic artist. This is true whether they use a PC or a Mac.

IDC at the end of October said 2 million Netbooks were sold in Q3 which was 7% of all desktops and notebooks.

I think most users want power not crippled computers.

Rod Drury
21 April 2009 #

I think there is a distinction between ‘cheap small PC’ and a true ‘Netbook’.

When I say Netbook I mean a small device, with minimal local storage that boots straight to a browser to access internet services. Android devices will be more like this.

Scott
21 April 2009 #

I’m not sure if I’d agree a netbook was ‘crippled hardware’, it is an ultra-portable, not a power workstation.
The OS running on it, be it XP or Linux, has not been thus far ‘crippled’.

If anything, a artificial O/S limitation like being only able to run 3 apps could imped netbook adoption in the windows space?

Dermott Renner
21 April 2009 #

Rod, your definition of a Netbook as a device which boots straight to a browser is not the common understanding at the moment or what most mainline hardware vendors are offering. But who knows what will come out in the next 6-9 months. In saying this your description is probably the correction definition.

There is misunderstanding on what Microsoft will offer with W7. There are 2 offerings that can be run on Netbooks – Starter and Home Premium. Ed Bott on ZdNet as a review of actually running this which is very good. The 3 apps limit does not count IE, basic Windows options, most control panel applets, desktop gadgets and service based anti-virus based software. So you can run as many browser based apps as you want.

Also if you use Home Premium you don’t have the 3 app limit.

So what Microsoft are offering with their W7 SKU’s is options and there are actually 2 not 1.

I have an HP 2510P I bought 18 months ago that ran Vista Business (not well) and runs W7 very well. It has Core 2 Duo U7700 1.33 GHz processor, 12.1″ screen, DVD and 120GG disk. Weight is 1.1 kilograms, runs 6 hours.

Not a Netbook (too expensive to be) but works well.

Rod Drury
21 April 2009 #

Dermott correct. They are offering small cheap PC’s.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netbook

Rod Drury
22 April 2009 #

JamesC just sent me this useful article from Wired:
http://www.wired.com/gadgets/wireless/magazine/17-03/mf_netbooks?currentPage=all

articles
26 April 2009 #

Article on arid.net (http://digg.com/d1pTAK) that talked about windows 7 starter edition and had suggestions on a better way to implement the starter edition for netbooks.

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