Microsoft has long hamstrung its Starter editions of Windows XP and Vista so that they only run three applications at a time (excluding things like background apps and Windows Explorer). However, this limit hurts users of netbooks and other low-power systems…and as those systems move to Windows 7, the three application limit was looking like more of a deal-breaker for the thin-margined netbook market.
Accordingly, Microsoft has announced that it will be removing the three-app-at-a-time restriction from Windows 7 Starter edition—users will be able to run as many applications as their processors and RAM will allow at the same time, so pulling up FireFox, Media Player, Live Messenger, and Notepad all at the same time will be do-able on netbooks and other low-end systems running Windows 7 Starter.
However, Windows 7 Starter will still be lacking a bunch of features present in the more expensive editions of Windows 7. Among features not available in Windows 7 Starter edition will be DVD playback, multi-monitor support, the ability to switch users without logging off, many personalization features, the Aero Glass interface, domain support (important for organizations and enterprises), Windows Media Center, and Windows 7 Ultimate’s XP Mode for running older programs compatible with Windows XP.
Microsoft of course emphasizes that all editions of Windows 7 are optimized to run on a broad range of PC hardware. Writing in the Windows 7 team blog, Windows’ communication manager Brandon LeBlanc writes: “Windows 7 Starter should not be considered “the netbook SKU” as most machines in this category can run any edition of Windows 7. Many of our beta users have installed Windows 7 Ultimate on their small notebook PCs and have given us very positive feedback on their experience.”
Removing the limit of three concurrent applications will undoubtedly make Windows 7 Starter edition more appealing to value-conscious netbook customers, although the lack of DVD playback and Windows Media Center support means Windows 7 Starter edition won’t be suitable for many common entertainment tasks…and users will be forced to fork over more money for Windows if they want those features.