Windows 7 Starter Pushes the Web and IE

I run XP on my netbook and I’ve been looking forward to running Windows 7 on it. So I’ve been watching news about Windows 7 with interest. There is much discussion this week that the low-priced Starter Edition will only let you run three apps at a time. If you want to run more then you’ll have to pay for the next level up.

Ed Bott’s got a great post that details what it’s like to use Windows 7 Starter and its limits. It’s not as simple as just three apps. There are many utilities and minor apps that don’t count. Windows Explorer, the Command Prompt, Task Manager, some services (like anti-virus software) and Desktop Gadgets don’t count.

The most interesting move is that IE doesn’t count towards your three apps. So using IE gets you that fourth app in a pinch. I wonder if this was a conscious decision on Microsoft’s part to try to keep people using IE. Updated: I had misread a portion of Ed’s post and IE is not exempt from the 3 app limit. My apologies. Thanks to Ed for pointing this out in the comments.

Of course limiting the apps will just push people to the browser for more things. Need a notepad then fire up Google Docs or Zoho. Need mail well, there’s Gmail or Hotmail. This seems counter to Microsoft’s goal of preserving the customer’s relationship to Windows — the more I am in the browser, the less I care about the underlying OS.

It’s good to see Microsoft embracing the netbook market. They’d be foolish not to, but at the same time they have to be careful to not cannibalize Windows sales on high-margin machines. I don’t think that the Starter Edition will be a non-starter as Information Week’s headline reads. Though it will be bad for marketing purposes (I’m very curious about how they will position it on the Sales site), I ultimately don’t think that the limit will matter for regular use.

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