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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  • Brady, thanks for the kind words and the link. However, I am not sure where you got the idea that IE is somehow exempt. It is not. It counts as a single app, just like Chrome and Firefox and Safari. Both Chrome and IE use multiple processes to enforce tab isolation. The only difference is that IE presents multiple tabs as multiple taskbar icons, whereas Chrome and Firefox present a single taskbar icon and require the user to click that icon to see the multiple tabs.

  • Thanks for clarifying that, Ed – I was just about to post on how this was going to get MS into more anti-trust hot water in Europe!

  • This is very confusing, and my bristles went up before reading Ed’s original post and comment.

    Ed implies that Internet Explorer DOES indeed count toward the three-app limit of Windows 7 Starter Edition, but this article seems to imply differently?

    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.

    After reading Ed’s post and comment, it seems like this is not the case. Please clarify or edit because I’m not entirely sure what to believe here.

  • Jim Stogdill

    Differential pricing based on differential value has always made sense, that’s why there is a BMW 323 and 325. What is so weird here is that we arrive at the differential value by disabling features that are still there in the low end versions rather than by including additional value in the high end versions. Imagine if the 323 and 325 were mechanically identical but BMW put a more restrictive ignition / fuel injection map in the cheaper car…

  • brady forrest

    My apologies. I had misread Ed’s post.

  • Do multiple windows of IE (not multiple tabs) count as one app or more? If they count as more, then what if a new window pops up and there are already 3 apps running?