Microsoft is still wrestling with the question of how to get Windows 7 onto dirt-cheap netbooks without crushing the profit margin it makes when it sells copies of Windows to PC manufacturers. Two pieces of scuttlebutt emerged today; one sounds promising for netbook buyers, and the other is kind of discouraging.
Promising scuttlebutt: Paul Thurrott is reporting–very briefly–that Microsoft has decided to lift the three-applications-at-a-time restriction from Windows 7 Starter Edition, the version of the OS that it expects to be popular on netbooks. While there were numerous exceptions to the limit, it’ll still be good news if it’s gone–as long as Microsoft doesn’t compensate by hobbling Starter Edition in some other way.
Discouraging scuttlebutt: A site called Tech ARM has what it says is a list of limitations that Microsoft will apply to machines that qualify to come with Windows 7 Starter Edition preinstalled. They’re tighter in some places than the similar restrictions for Windows XP, and laxer in others–but the one that sticks in my craw is the continuing requirement that netbooks ship with a maximum of 1GB of RAM. RAM’s cheap enough these days that there would surely be 2GB netbooks if Microsoft didn’t try to prevent them from shipping. And I know from my experience with my own Asus EeePC 1000HE that it’s a markedly more pleasing computer with the 2GB upgrade that I installed than it would have been with half the RAM.
There’s something basically unsettling about a software provider putting rules in place to discourage PC manufacturers from selling well-equipped PCs–especially when said software provider has a big ad campaign going that’s centered around specsmanship. I hope that the rumors are wrong–or if they’re right, that Microsoft takes yet another pass at figuring out how to put Windows on netbooks in a way that makes sense.