Netbook version of Windows 7 will be "much cheaper"

5 Feb 2009

Exclusive: Microsoft to tighten the screw on Linux with aggressive prices for Windows 7 Starter edition on netbooks

Microsoft is set to tighten the screw on Linux in the netbook market by making the new Starter edition of Windows 7 much cheaper than Home Premium.

The company announced there will be six versions of Windows 7 earlier this week, although only five of those will be available in the UK.

Starter edition is the company's attempt to address the netbook market, which has so far largely ignored Windows Vista and opted for the less demanding and cheaper Windows XP, or pre-installed with Linux.

When asked in an exclusive interview with PC Pro whether the pricing for Starter edition will be "much keener" than for Windows 7 Home Premium, Microsoft's Windows product manager Laurence Painell said: "I would suggest that's a safe assumption."

The company is yet to announce specific pricing for the various flavours of Windows 7.

Painell said he expects the vast majority of netbooks to ship with Starter edition, but that manufacturers will have the option to install Home Premium on those devices.

"If you're buying a netbook it will be down to the OEM to decide whether they install Starter edition, in order to keep the goods down to the lowest price they can, or they can offer the best possible experience on netbooks, which is obviously Home Premium," he said.

One reason why manufacturers may decide to snub Starter edition is that it limits users to opening a maximum of three applications simultaneously. Starter also fails to offer multitouch support, making it inappropriate for tablet devices. Asus has already announced a Tablet Eee PC and others are expected to follow with low-cost touch devices.

Microsoft denies it's artificially crippling the feature set of Starter edition to allow it to charge extra for Home Premium.

"What we've tried to do is create a SKU line-up which satisfies consumers and partners," Painell said. "They [netbooks] are very much designed as a companion device. So for instance, it's not the best experience to use Media Center on a netbook because you don't have the correct screen size. Moving to a larger form-factor laptop or desktop PC means you get the best possible experience for Media Center."