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Windows 7 Starter Freed of Three-App Limit

Microsoft changed course on its product marketing plans for the Windows 7 Starter edition and removed a restriction that critics said would have artificially "crippled" the operating system.

The Starter edition of Windows 7, when released, will be able to run multiple applications simultaneously, Microsoft announced on late Friday. Previously, the OS was limited to running just three different applications simultaneously.

Microsoft also changed its marketing policy and now plans to license the Windows 7 Starter edition on netbooks worldwide. Microsoft's blog claims that Starter editions were available before with Windows XP and Windows Vista, but the distribution was limited to certain regions.

Microsoft made those concessions based on feedback from its "partners and customers," according the blog. However, the Starter edition is still crippled in a number of ways.

For instance, the Aero Glass graphical user interface can't be run on the Windows 7 Starter edition. Instead, users can access only the Windows 7 Basic interface. This very same limitation elicited a lawsuit by consumer users of Vista when it was first released. Buyers of new "Vista-Capable" PCs found that Vista's glass-like graphics wasn't part of their user experience. Plaintiffs in this Vista Capable lawsuit lately have been losing their appeals.

Windows 7 Starter edition also has a number of multimedia limitations, as described by Microsoft's blog. DVD playback will not work and you won't be able to use Microsoft's Windows Media Center to watch TV. The "remote media streaming" feature in Windows 7 that lets users share multimedia files won't be part of the Starter edition.

Consumers are expected to buy the Windows 7 Home Premium edition, which includes multimedia support missing in the Starter edition.

Microsoft is currently working out its Windows 7 product line, but pricing for netbooks remains a key issue. The low-cost machines, selling for as low as $300, have reduced Microsoft's Windows licensing profits.

Netbooks typically are smaller than laptops, but their size is subject to debate. Leaked specs, purportedly from Microsoft's OEM partners, suggest that the screen must be no larger than 10.2 inches to run Windows 7. Some have suggested a backroom deal took place between Intel and Microsoft over this spec limitation, to the detriment of VIA Technologies.

Microsoft currently licenses its aging XP Home edition to run on netbooks. The company extended the OS' lifecycle until June 30, 2010 for OEMs to install it on new netbooks. Its current Vista OS typically can't run on netbooks because of its higher hardware requirements.

Microsoft's blog claims that the Starter edition of Windows 7 "should not be considered the netbook SKU." Any edition of Windows 7 will be able to run on a netbook, the company claims.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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