Windows 7 Starter Edition: Limitations Under Fire

Dennis Faas's picture

Unconfirmed reports suggest Microsoft will drop a limitation on the Starter Edition of Windows 7 that would prevent users from running more than three applications at a time. This comes amidst speculation that guidelines for the Starter Edition have been rigged to benefit particular manufacturers.

The Starter Edition, aimed at netbook users, will not be available for consumers to buy separately. Instead, only manufacturers are allowed to license it and install it on their machines.

In the originally published specifications for the Starter Edition, users could only run three programs at any one time and couldn't change their desktop background.

Starter Edition Reasoning Disputed

The reasoning behind Microsoft's Starter Edition limitations is disputed.

One school of thought has it that it's simply to avoid users on very low-spec machines finding Windows 7 doesn't work properly. Another rumor has it that machines running the Starter Edition will actually have the full version installed, but can only unlock the full edition if customers pay an extra fee.

Blogger Paul Thurrott broke the news that Microsoft has decided to drop the limit. If true, that would be a smart move: if customers found they bought a Windows 7-enabled netbook but it was artificially restricted and not operating at its full potential, it would have left a sour taste in their mouths, particularly given that multi-tasking is one of the main points of a modern operating system. (Source:

Netbook Diameter Dilemma: By Definition

There is also controversy over Microsoft's specifications for a computer to qualify for the Starter Edition.

Any netbook with a screen size above 10.2 inches in diameter will not be eligible for the Starter Edition; this means that the manufacturer will have to license a more expensive edition of Windows, which in turn will likely mean the retail price of the netbook higher. (Source:

While most of the Starter Edition limits have risen from their Vista equivalents in line with general computer advances, the screen size limit has actually dropped from 12.1 inches. Critics suggest this is an intentional move designed to aid Intel, which provides the chips for most netbooks with screens up to 10 inches. Comparatively, VIA is the current market leader for the next standard size at 11.6 inches.

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