Why Does Microsoft Limit Netbooks?

from the trying-to-figure-this-out dept

This is hardly a new issue, but an LA Times review of three new netbooks once again brings up Microsoft’s odd limitations on netbooks, in which the company will only sell its operating system to be put on underpowered netbooks, with the belief that this will somehow “protect” its other markets. Those sorts of claims tend to have a way of backfiring — and I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t seen more alternatively-powered netbooks. Yes, there are a bunch of Linux netbooks on the market (and the original netbooks were Linux-based) but Microsoft machines have since taken over the market. It’s encouraging to see companies like Lenovo now pushing much more powerful netbooks using a Linux-based OS, but I’m still trying to figure out Microsoft’s reasoning. If the fear is that it will somehow cannibalize Microsoft’s market for more powerful OSes on more powerful machines, it’s difficult to see how ceding the market to others will help.

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Companies: microsoft

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Comments on “Why Does Microsoft Limit Netbooks?”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ima, you seem to know what you’re talking about here, so a question: what can I NOT do on a Linux platform that I can do on a Windows platform? I’m only mildly technical, more geared towards security technology than coding/command line stuff, which I’ve always been told is somewhat of a necessity to get the most from a Linux machine.

I’m getting set to buy a new notebook/desktop and would LOVE to load Linux onto my 3 year old compaq. How scared do I need to be, and where can I go to learn anything I need to learn. I only game mildly, mostly much older games like CivIII, Deus Ex, etc., though I do load up Madden now and again. Everything else I use it for is web surfing and writing.

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

linux can work fine then. Linux is usually pretty easy (all OS’s have their faults) and the communities surrounding the different distro’s are usually full of great people. If this is your first time using linux, I would recommend either Ubuntu or Mint.

What you cannot do on Linux that you can do on Windows is run Windows programs. That is really it. There is a program that will usually do whatever you need to be done written for linux. Gaming is always an issue, but Wine can help there, especially with older games.

There really is no reason to not have a linux box lying around. You will never lose anything by learning something new and different.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

When you pretty much have to “join a community” to be able to install and maintain an OS, I consider it pretty much a fail. An OS needs to be a thing that just works, you ignore it, when you plug something new it, it works, etc.

Microsoft and Apple pretty much have the market cornered on functional OSes that don’t require users to also be techies.

Linux is a great operating system, but it requires a level of technical ability and interest that most end users aren’t going to want to spend.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’m usually not one to defend Linux, but I hate you and you’re outright wrong.

One, the Linux OS install is an easy one. One must have the ability to read and comprehend tough.

Two, Linux is a perfect OS for people (like you it seems) that don’t know much about computers outside of surfing the web and sending E-Mail.

Three, when I did try Linux, I had no problems installing USB devices like hard drives. Even network setup was easy. The only problem came up when I found I was unable to install the Linux version of AVG. Something that the average user (the kind of user a netbook is actually geared to) would have already setup or not even have to worry about it.

Four (and this is for everyone), Netbooks are not geared for the kinds of people that frequent a page called Techdirt. They’re designed for the stereotypical grandma, grandpa, and farmer john to get online and check E-Mail. Not for gaming nor for advanced media playback. People looking for a cheap laptop to play WOW on need to look elsewhere. Linux is perfectly fine for a netbook.

interval says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Saying “There are viruses for Linux” is like saying “I know the Hope Diamond exists”, but will I ever own it? Strictly speaking, its possible. Is it practically a probability? No. I’ve run Linux on every laptop I own (yes, even after paying that cursed Microsoft tax I wipe Windows and install Linux because in my line of work that what I use.) 20 years after that first Slackware install, not one virus. NOT ONE. Sure, I hear viruses are out there, but for some reason they won’t come near me.

If you want to play games, keep Windows. Yeah, you can run emulators and vm’s and crap. Keep windows. Just make sure your virus and malware databases are up to date. And run firefox with no script. Best defense against script kiddies.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I have been using windows for years, since Windows 3.1, and I have had a grand spanking total of 1 virus. It’s all in how you surf. I know that I could run windows without anti-virus due to my surfing habits (and my natural paranoia) but I just won’t. Same would go for Linux and Mac, it only takes that one. Same would even go for my iPod if I cracked it, I would want some kind of protection (one reason I don’t crack it).

Godric says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Four (and this is for everyone), Netbooks are not geared for the kinds of people that frequent a page called Techdirt. They’re designed for the stereotypical grandma, grandpa, and farmer john to get online and check E-Mail.”

@Chronno: I use netbooks to manage my datacenter. All of our techs are issued one for this purpose. They are great for getting out on the DC floor and performing configurations and conducting tests right there in front of the hardware. They are also much lighter than lugging my 19″ laptop around.

You are correct though about gaming… they will never be good for that. That is not the market they are geared towards. Besides… if I’m going to game, I want to be wearing my iWear goggles anyway. Try playing a flight sim while on a turbulant flight. It is really freaky and cool.

As for antivirus for Linux, I recommend clamav. Our clients seem to like it a lot.

MadJo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Who do you call when you encounter problems with your Windows computer? Do you call Microsoft or your nephew/neighbour/friend? (How is the latter any different from “joining a community”?)

Ever even tried installing a Linux-based operating system? It’s easier, more user-friendly out of the box than Apple’s and Microsoft’s offerings.
And it supports more hardware without installing extra drivers.
Installing a Linux distro is on the whole as simple as clicking “Next” a lot of times.
And installing applications is as easy as it is on the Iphone, with the built-in ‘apt’-store like in Debian based systems, but almost every distro now has a centralised software installation system. And without the censorship of the Apple.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Okay, I’m not sure if you’re being a troll or if you’re actually ignorant about this topic, but giving you the benefit of the doubt, you really need to check out Linux, if only so you stop saying really stupid things about it.

Power up your favorite bit torrent client (I recommend uTorrent) and find Ubuntu 9.10. Burn it to a CD, pop it in, and run the Live CD. Once that’s done, marvel at how easy it is to use out of the box.

Furthermore, when you think having a good support community is the sign of a bad OS, you’re doing it wrong. A *lack* of a good support community is the sign of a bad OS, because every OS has issues, and if there’s no support it means that no one is using it.

Lemme know how Linux works out for ya.


Re: Re: Re:2 Double standards

> When you pretty much have to “join a community” to be
> able to install and maintain an OS, I consider it pretty
> much a fail.

Then be honest and call Windows and MacOS failures because they impose the exact same requirement on end users. MacOS has it’s own set of quirks that users need to be retrained for and Windows would be nowhere without legions of unpaid geeks doing tech support.

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’ll feed the troll cause I think it might help. There are very few things that I plug in to my Linux box these days that don’t work out of the box. Webcams, headsets, hard drives, mp3 players, cameras, etc; plug them in and you’re done. No drivers, no configuration, no tweaking or tinkering, It Just Works ™.

And nowadays, “a level of technical ability” is basically typing your error in Google, copying and pasting from a website or forums and moving on, especially in a distribution like Ubuntu.

And regarding the command line concerns; it makes things easier, not harder, and only at the expense of more keyboard use. The command line is nothing like the powerless DOS prompt.

At the very least, I’m with senshikaze; you will never lose anything by learning something new and different. You might even learn a thing or two about how computers work overall.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

There’s more truth to this comment than you guys care to admit.

Years ago, I tried reconditioning an old laptop that ran Windows 95 by installing Linux. Tried a few different versions, but always something wouldn’t work — either networking wasn’t detected, or audio was gone, or video drivers weren’t functioning properly, or apps would mysteriously vanish when I moused over them. Finally gave up and installed Windows 2000, and it “just worked”. Had a fully functional system inside of a couple hours.

“But it’s getting better.” Ok, fast-forward to just last year, trying to install Ubuntu on an HP Tablet PC. No network support, video didn’t work without going online (from another computer) to figure out how to tweak the config, and the touchscreen never worked. Compare that to installing the Windows 7 beta on the same machine, where everything worked “out of the box” on the first install.

That said, I do have a Linux server that runs my home network. According to uptime, the thing’s been running for 206 days. I rarely have to touch the thing (except to occasionally restart the networking stack when my ISP goes wonky). But it, too, did not install everything perfectly the first time; it took some work to get it to where it is.

I’m sure there are machines that Linux will install just fine on, the first time. I haven’t had that experience, however. Yeah, sooner or later, in all OSes, something will go wrong, and you’ll need to find help. I can definitely see how Windows is a lot easier to get a machine to a “running state”, though.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“There really is no reason to not have a linux box lying around. You will never lose anything by learning something new and different.”

Agreed, that’s why I’m stoked to get started. What I’m trying to avoid is an attempt to get started with Linux stifled by my inhuman rage at getting in over my head.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I built a Gentoo system once (following the instructions, step by step). That was a thrill seeing a working system fully compiled from source for the first time. 🙂

Then I realized I had failed to install enough packages to make it useful, had no idea what packages I needed to get it there, gave up and installed Debian. 🙂

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I used to use Gentoo exclusively (RedHat before that). It wasn’t THAT hard. I even did a COMPLETE install once…. took 4 days to compile it all.

I got sick of having to compile EVERYTHING though; I wanted software right away! I read that compiling didn’t help much and I kept hearing good things about Ubuntu. I tried it out when I borked my Gentoo install (thanks to incessant tweaking) and haven’t looked back. That was back with 5.10 I believe. 9.04 is pretty damn great and I look forward to my eventual upgrade to 9.10.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

What I’m trying to avoid is an attempt to get started with Linux stifled by my inhuman rage at getting in over my head.

if it’s not your main computer there’s nothing to get upset about. the worst thing that can happen is you have to keep windows around to run some app that you can’t live without.

just start by running windows on your secondary machine and run apps that are available in both linux and windows, and learn to use the apps before you learn to use linux. this way, linux is useful to you before you install it, and you aren’t simultaneously learning a new OS and a new set of applications. openoffice, abiword, firefox, geany, gimp, pidgin etc. all have windows versions that you can get familiar with in windows before adding linux to the mix.

this also has the added benefit of making bouncing between machines running windows and linux a bit easier. portableapps.com has a bunch of open source windows apps that you can run from a usb thumb drive, so you can use a consistent set of applications even when you are using windows machines that aren’t yours (like school computer labs, libraries, friends’ houses, etc.)

then when you feel comfortable using the new apps, start with the ubuntu (or fedora) live CD and see if the network card, video and audio work out of the box, if so, install to the hard drive and never look back. if not, look into cheap replacement cards with good linux support, rinse and repeat.

another route, given you have powerful enough hardware, is to run linux in a virtual machine to experiment with, and then, as you get more comfortable with it, switch your PC over to linux, and run windows in a VM for those times when you need windows.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve always been told is somewhat of a necessity to get the most from a Linux machine.

Having a good knowledge of mechanics is a necessity to get the most out of your car, but that never stops anyone from driving one. Any questions you run into, I assure you that a simple google search will find the solution. 🙂

what can I NOT do on a Linux platform that I can do on a Windows platform?

There is very little (I can’t think of anything right now) that you can’t do on a Linux machine that you can on windows. Unless you’re hung up on a specific *brand* of software. For example, iTunes does not run on Linux (this is one of the reasons I ditched the iphone for the Droid) but there are several similar applications for Linux. Games can be a bit dodgy, and you’ll need to install WINE to run them if they were built for Windows.

How scared do I need to be, and where can I go to learn anything I need to learn.

Don’t be afraid, my Bulbous-headed friend! You can always make a Live CD (or, Live USB if your BIOS allows it) and test it out without messing with your current setup. Also, as many Linux users do, you can dual boot Linux and Windows. This is usually a good idea for beginners, though read up on how to use GParted (it will be on the Live CD) before you go mucking around with your partitions.

As for where to go to learn: I just installed it and jumped in, and I’m so glad I did. I hear that Linux Mint is a good flavor (ha!) to start out with transitioning from Windows, but Ubuntu seems just as easy to me.

I know the question wasn’t directed at me, but I can’t pass up the chance to bring someone else to the Dark Side.

cc says:

Re: Re: Re:

I use Linux on my main machine.

Chances are, you’ll never need to use command-line-fu (though it is useful to know), and if you ever have anything too out of the ordinary, Google usually does the job. Installation should be painless, but it may be useful to check hardware compat in advance (if you post what you have here, I’ll have a quick look).

Wine does indeed allow some Windows games to run, but if you already have an XP license, it may be easiest to either dual-boot or set it up in Virtualbox (very cool, allows 3d as well).

Feel free to ask any questions here, or if you don’t want to piss Mike off try http://ubuntuforums.org/

McBeese says:

Re: Re: Re:

@Dark Helmet – A couple of points to consider before beginning your adventure into Linux-land:

1. People love to crap all over Windows Vista, right? Arguably, the biggest downfall of Vista was that it was released before the 3rd party ecosystems were ready so all kinds of hardware and apps had problems. My experience is that Linux is a LOT worse in this regard than Vista ever was. If you want to run a clean o/s for Web surfing with Firefox and a few other basic non-graphics intensive local apps, Linux is a good choice, especially for older machines. If, on the other hand, you have 3rd party hardware to consider (including graphics and sound upgrades), expect a lot of problems.

2. When people tell you that you can use WINE to run your Windows apps and games, I think they mean that you should drink copious amounts of wine so that you no longer want to do anything but sleep. Seriously, using WINE for Windows is like using Parallels or VMWARE for Windows on a MAC – performance sucks and you’ll still encounter a bunch of hardware compatibility issues. So when someone says “no problem, use WINE for that” you can be sure that they are a Linux zealot and you should not heed their advice because they aren’t being realistic.

Btw, I laughed out loud over the Christmas break when I saw a kid who couldn’t have been more than 5 years old walking along with his parents in the mall. His t-shirt said “SUDO Get iPhone for Christmas.” If you decide to move forward with Linux, you’ll quickly understand why that was funny.

interval says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m going to go with McBeese on the wine thing, WINE sucks. Now you can do what do, and that is run VirtualBox. Much smoother. You have an actual windows vm you can call up from your Ubuntu (if you’re so inclined, or name your distro) system menu. You can run windows apps as separate windows against your Ubu desktop, or run the Windows desktop and completely cover your ubu up. In that state no one would know the difference. And VirtBox has some select gfx hard accelerator code in it now, you can run a lot of directx based games. All you have to do is open up that cursed command line (actually a shell in linus parlance) and go “apt-get install virtualbox”. Yay!

Death to Microsith.

McBeese says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

VirtualBox is slicker than wine, but unless you have a really high-end machine, the performance is still going to be a big disappointment. Dual-boot solutions are the only thing worth considering, IMHO, but you’ll quickly tire of that if you have to go back and forth a lot. If you love Linux but you still need access to the Windows ecosystem (like most people), then the best option is a two machine solution. Virtual storage services like DropBox have made it a lot easier to manage a user profile across multiple devices and o/s.

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

1. I thought people hated on Vista because it was a resource hog for no reason. That and their hardware, which used to work in XP, no longer worked in Vista; particularly old hardware. It’s exceptionally rare that I find something that doesn’t work in Linux these days (Ubuntu specifically), and if it’s old, it’ll almost work guaranteed. Hardware, I’ve also had no problems at all, with the exception of ATI graphics. If you’ve got an Intel video chipset or an nVidia card… or really ANYTHING beside ATI, you’ll be fine. For the record, I’ve also had a lot of problems with ATI cards in Windows too.

2. This I will agree with. I’ve NEVER gotten Wine to work right in all my years of using Linux and I hate when people say “just use Wine”. I much prefer to use Virtualbox for my Windows software needs. I wouldn’t really recommend it for gaming (though it does work for some games), or any really high-resource software (it’ll work but be painfully slow), but it’s pretty awesome for the random Windows apps you just NEED to run.

nraddin (profile) says:

Re: Re: No fear of linux

Unless you want to game or run most comercial software or install new hardware. There are alternatives for most software stuff like office and photoshop but I have not found them to be as robust over all. However unless you are buying a machine with Linux/BSD/etc on it you are going to find issues with driver support. Any new hardware you buy also might cause you issues (Although most stuff like keyboard, mice, monitors, thumb drives, etc) work great right out the box, a new NIC, sound, video, etc you should be careful that there are drivers available.

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: No fear of linux

That’s far less true than it used to be. You can usually avoid headaches by looking at user comments before buying the hardware. Especially on sites like Newegg, if you simply pull up the comments and search for “Ubuntu” or “Linux” you’ll find out pretty quick if what you’re planning to buy will work. If your machine is even mildly old, even a couple months, chances are quite high it’ll all work out of the box.

Google is your friend, and if in doubt, run the Live CD.

McBeese says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No fear of linux

Another suggestion: try to stick with hardware that is compatible with both Windows and Mac. My experience has been that *most* hardware that runs on both Windows and Mac can be made to run on Linux. Conversely, my experience has also been that *most* hardware that is not Mac compatible is also not Linux compatible.

At the end of the day, it’s a pain in the butt to have to ‘research’ and experiment with new hardware. My opinion is that Linux is still not close to being an effective consumer mass-market product. Great server platform and getting better as a platform for many kinds of specialized clients, but not ready for prime time as a PC o/s for Joe Consumer because it’s missing a critical must-have ingredient: a healthy 3rd party ecosystem.

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 No fear of linux

I’d have to agree with you here. Not surprising, since OSX essentially runs on BSD, which Linux is a clone of.

3rd party support is kind of a cyclical problem. There’s not much interest in it because the market is so small, and the market remains small because there’s not much 3rd party support. Time will tell if Google can turn that tide or not… or if they really even have an interest in doing so.

McBeese says:

Re: Re: Re:4 No fear of linux

Agree 100%. Linux (in the consumer context) is like an orphan child that is being raised in the wild. It needs a parent to pick it up and run with it, just as IBM and HP have done in the enterprise server market. Google could do it, as could a handful of other big companies.

I think we’ll see more Linux proliferation as we see more specialized devices roll-out. For example, I believe Linux will be the o/s of choice for touch-screen tablets. A tablet will never be used as your only general-purpose device. Tablets will be focused at specific groups of apps that are appropriate for the form factor. Given that Windows is the wrong UI for a touch device and that the tablet market is expected to be both performance and cost-sensitive, why wouldn’t Linux be the right default o/s choice?

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

In theory you can do anything.

But as with any new OS, there’s a learning curve. Ironically, I think the more experienced you are with Windows, the harder the curve is — e.g. the average user wouldn’t spend any time looking for the Task Manager in Linux, but a Windows power-user might.

Also keep in mind that there’s a slightly higher chance that things just won’t work when installing Linux onto your 3 year old Compaq. When your Compaq was sold to you, you didn’t just get an out-of-the-box version of Windows, you got one slightly modified, packaged with drivers, and all pre-installed so it would just work when you turned it on. With Linux, you’re installing something from scratch. It’s a similar situation as if you were to install a new version of Windows from scratch without any of the drivers.

One other caveat: When something doesn’t work on Windows, the recommended solution from Compaq or whoever is usually “download this file, double click, and follow the instructions.” With Linux, there’s a higher chance the community will tell you to open a command line and edit what suspiciously looks like code. It’s not too hard to do, but the command line is intimidating to a lot of people.

Rooker (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The one and only reason I haven’t deleted XP off my hard drive is the difficulty in getting PC games to work on Linux. It can be done but it’s glitchy and with some games it simply isn’t possible, often because of DRM issues.

But, since the gaming industry itself is doing it’s level best to destroy the PC gaming market, that might be a moot point before much longer.

But for anything else, Linux can do whatever you need and Ubuntu really does make it easy to switch. It’s probably easier to use than Windows, with the exception of having to download some multimedia codecs after installing (because of licensing issues).

Dan says:

Re: Re: Re:

I have my two drives in my desktop. The first has XP and the second has Ubuntu. On boot, grub offers my choices. I mostly use XP for the applications I need but feel no need for Win7 now. If you get a laptop you could install Linux on an external drive and boot either OS from it or unplug the drive and take your Win box on the road. I guess my next addition will be VirtualBox so I can run XP in a Ubuntu window and not have to reboot. So how is that for the best of both worlds? I can remove either drive without affecting the other OS. Is that enough insurance for you? No risk for the $60 cost of a HD. As far as applications you can find open source software for most needs on Linux and boot Win when needed. The fear is yours to overcome but the gain is great and mostly free.

Anonymous Coward says:


I think this is more about MS making a play for higher licensing fees. Last I read on this issue, MS was trying to convince OEMs that the higher powered netbooks should be equipped with a version of 7 home premium instead of starter, mainly so MS could get the higher license fee and not, as Ballmer put it, “Cannibalize” their existing license fee income from plain old notebooks.

John Doe says:

This puzzles me as well

I am not a defender of MS, but I am a fan of their products. But this artificial limitation and control over the hardware vendors pisses me off. Up until now, I have liked MS, but with crap like this going on, I can’t wait until apps move to the cloud and we can kiss Windows goodbye. We will then have choice of Linux, Chrome OS, Windows and maybe more.

Personally, I would like to see MS busted into two companies now. One for just the OS the other for all other apps. Then we might not see crap like this.

McBeese says:

Re: This puzzles me as well

“Personally, I would like to see MS busted into two companies now. One for just the OS the other for all other apps. Then we might not see crap like this.”

Now yer talking. That would be awesome. You’d see sharper focus on Windows performance and you’d see better Msft applications on other platforms (Office on Mac is a joke today).

chris (profile) says:

Re: This puzzles me as well

Personally, I would like to see MS busted into two companies now. One for just the OS the other for all other apps. Then we might not see crap like this.

i think a 3 or 4 way split would be better. someone should definitely split the OS and applications businesses, but i think network services like Live, and content services like MSN should be split into their own companies as well.

the reason being that Live (and possibly Bing) could be a lot cooler if it’s primary purpose wasn’t being a giant commercial for windows and internet explorer. MS is working to bring it’s own cloud stuff to bear and i think that separating those services from the windows platform would do a lot of good.

microsoft also has a fair amount of decent content that people like me forget to look at. if that content was freed from the current MS guild system, it might show up in more of my and my friends’ feed readers. if the content company got a decent amount of cash in the split, it could cut deals with other content services to be a low cost/ad supported purveyor of high end mainstream content.

those are just theories, and i know that a breakup will never happen, but it would be nice to see all this anti-competitive stuff go away and let MS’s good work succeed on it’s own merit.

senshikaze (profile) says:

At the time they made it, only xp could be put on a netbook (i have seen vista on one and I swear it took twenty minutes to load notepad). But since they don’t make almost any money on XP (the cost of a netbook is 200~300$USD, so the os is subsidized), they want to cripple the netbook to sell more Vista laptops and desktops. Now that windows 7 is “made for netbook” the restriction doesn’t even make sense for them.
I had a netbook (Acer Aspire One) with Ubuntu(netbook version), Arch Linux(gnome and openbox) and Fedora(gnome), and have to say that it isn’t exactly a fun experience. I am not exactly sure why these things are popular. and I couldn’t even imagine a netbook with the same specs running xp being anywhere near usable.

(just me, but i seriously think that the atom processor is just too underpowered. I hope more arm netbooks come out so i can play with one of those.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I have a new (1 week old) toshiba N205 netbook.

I didn’t even boot it into it’s default “Windows 7 Starter” before pluggin in my USB flash drive and installing Windows 7 Home Premium.

Install was painless, drivers were found and updated by the OS. Installed Skype, Firefox, MS Office 2007, and a few other miscellaneous apps.

End result? My wife watches netflix on it @ work (3rd shift call-center rep), browses the web, makes calls via skype, and emails. It works beautifully.

I really don’t see how “Microsoft limited” this netbook. It’s not the “Starter Edition” BS, because there are plenty of netbooks currently selling with 7HP on them (just not this model, for some unknown reason…it was the fastest one on the shelf).

Anyone care to explain how Microsoft is “limiting” these?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Firstly: You assume too much. I am a TechNet subscriber. I pay ~$250 a year for as many Windows/Office/Server licenses as I want.

Secondly: That’s why I asked, genius.

Way to be helpful, jackass. Next time, don’t bother. Your comment, other than mildly amusing, was completely useless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

…and I quote:
“Anyone care to explain how Microsoft is “limiting” these?”

Your response:
“And secondly, you don’t seem to have any idea what sort of “limit” we are talking about!”

All together now…


When someone asks what something is, the last thing they expect is a reply stating “You obviously don’t know what it is!” That was kind of implied by, ya know…asking what it is.

Sorry man, stupid responses bring out the asshole in me, and that one was just bewilderingly absurd. It’s not you personally, it’s just that I can’t stand stupid.

That said…

My apologies for not perceiving “only to be sold on underpowered notebooks” as a limitation from the get-go. I was blinded by the whole “Why would anyone want to run that version anyway?” bit. My bad. Bill Engval will be by shortly to hand me my sign.

I’m sure you’re a great person and all, but really…ya gotta admit that first response of yours was highly amusing (at least, from the perspective of someone totally missing on how *not* being able to use Starter Edition could in any way, shape, or form be considered anything but a blessing).

As for being a giant psychopath…I’m only 5’11”, dude.

cc says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I really don’t care to argue with someone like you, even though I don’t appreciate being called things.

The sad truth of it is, you are obviously either a troll looking for a fight, or someone with issues (very likely both) and I don’t have the time or the patience to deal with you.

Is it not a fact that your original question was not a question per se? It is obvious if you take the rest of your comment as context. Now stop flinging it around.

You are still failing to click on the links and read. Idiot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

How in the world is this:

“Anyone care to explain how Microsoft is “limiting” these?”

Not a question?

If someone is seeking an explanation as to what something is, responding by telling them they don’t know what it is, is without a doubt about the dumbest thing you could respond with. Of course I didn’t know what it was…which is what prompted the request for an explanation.

Had you actually responded with an explanation, I would very likely have simply thanked you and been on my way (you can see that play out below courtesy of someone with patience *and* a clue).

Instead, you decided to be a jackass. You made an assumption and then accused me of not knowing the very thing I asked for an explanation of. Obviously, I responded in kind. One would assume that had you been looking for an actual, rational discussion, you would have started out by *being* rational.

trolling…yeah. Whatever. I gave my background experience with the devices in question and asked a simple question. If anything the stupid, absurd, and utterly pointless response of yours is what started this. But hey, whatever helps you make it through the day…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Just as helpful as the first guy, but without the ignorant assumptions.

How about reading the comment?

You might see where I asked: “Anyone care to explain…?”

…which would kind of imply I don’t know what you’re talking about, dontcha think?

Why do you idiots feel the need to respond if you can’t even be marginally helpful?

I stated my experience and asked a question. Two out of three responses amounted to: “Why did you ask? You apparently don’t know the answer! bwahaaha!!!”

Pure genius. Do you often ask question that you *already* know the answers to?

interval says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“I am a TechNet subscriber. I pay ~$250 a year for as many Windows/Office/Server licenses as I want.”

Wow. I pay nothing and yet I still can install any version of windows that I want, if I so choose. (I usually don’t).

$250 a year for a pipeline of shitty software. What a deal. You truly are a genius.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Ooooh….you can download a torrent. I’m impressed.

No, really. How you manage to *breathe* is beyond me.

The fact that you think this makes you “special” instead of just another self-entitled, ignorant twat….even better.

I used to download “warez” torrents as well. Then I grew up. You should really give it a try sometime.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t know the exact limitations (because I’m like you and install my own strait off). There are software limitations in the version of windows pre-installed, you can’t run more than a set number of programs at a time. There are also hardware limitations, you cannot install the cheaper netbook version of windows on higher power hardware. I don’t know the specifics, if anyone douse, I would love to know.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

AFAIK, they dropped the “number of programs at a time” limitation (but again, never actually ran that version).

Also not sure why anyone would want to install starter on anything *but* low-end hardware…though not sure why they seem to be wanting to install it on the low-end stuff anyway. Home Premium (even Ultimate) seem to run just fine on the same hardware Starter does from the posts I’ve seen.

…almost tempted to throw starter back on there to answer the application-concurrency and performance questions.

If the “limimtation” they are whining about here is the inability to install starter on more powerful PCs, I guess my only question would be; Why the hell would you want to??

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

While the way you said it was prickish, I understand what your saying and agree with it. Windows 7 starter was not designed for high end laptops nor was it designed for more than just the absolute basics of use.

The problem did not arise when they created a new version of windows, the problem arose when they outright said that it cannot be installed on anything but pre-approved hardware. Microsoft has never done this before (that’s the realm of Apple). Yes, they have had minimum requirements and yes they had that “Vista Compatible” thing that required minimum hardware, but that didn’t stop anyone from installing windows on anything else. Even then, Microsoft has never had maximum requirements before.

Being experienced in the home vs pro versions of XP, Vista, and 7, this is not really anything new for me (sounds like it’s the same for you). Limiting what hardware I can install is a problem for me though and I can see why people are upset about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Prickish? Meh…definitely to the idiots above, but if you got that from me towards you, it was totally unintended.

So we’re talking about the limitation of Starter to *only* low-end hardware then. Okay. It kind of makes some sense to me that people would look at that in bemusement. I suppose if I did have some reason to actually *want* Starter, it might irk me somewhat….and I guess this is where the disconnect lies.

I simply don’t understand *anyone’s* desire for that edition. Sure, it’s probably “better” than Vista Basic, but then, I didn’t see the point to that one either.

Yeah, I know the pricing bit, but seriously? They’d be better off (IMHO) offering home-premium at a lower price than putting the “Starter” edition into the hands of users and suffering the PR backlash of an OS that is utterly *not* what is advertised as “Windows 7”.

So yeah…I guess that’s my round-about way of agreeing with the article at this point, but with caveats. Starter just shouldn’t exist….making it’s limitations moot. Just another bad PR move from the company that is notorious for them. I mean, really…have we not come to expect it by now? :p

Thanks for taking the time, man. Always nice when there’s at least one rational person around. 🙂

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Another one that was relayed to me via a relative of a friend was the fact that you can’t even change your desktop wallpaper or color scheme (which seems more than a little ridiculous to me).

Here’s a Windows Team Blog post with a little more info.

The lack of XP mode is also a limitation on Home Premium, but you can get around it easily enough by using VirtualPC (“officially” unsupported on Windows 7, but works fine) or any other virtualization program and installing XP in it.

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

‘Anyone care to explain how Microsoft is “limiting” these?’

From the article, it looks like Starter is limited to machines with 1GB memory and a 10.2 inch or smaller screen.

I believe Starter costs less than Home Premium so that means more money in the manufacturer’s pockets by selling it with Starter instead of Home Premium.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

So it’s really the OEM’s putting Starter on these machines to save a buck (and to ostensibly be able sell them cheaper).

…and the complaint is that if they wanted to sell a higher-end netbook, they wouldn’t be able to use starter and thus not “save” the cost over the other licenses and (again ostensibly) make the units cheaper to the customer.

I would love to see the cost difference to OEM’s between Starter and Home Premium. Sadly the only thing Googling got me was an ancient Ars Technica piece that was 100% speculation.

So really, arguing the cost is pretty pointless (among us non-manufacturing types), since we simply have zero idea what the real differences in cost are.

But yeah…Starter is a mistake. Has been from XP. MSFT should never have even offered that SKU. Then again, I also don’t think they should offer an upgrade SKU, so… (Hint to MSFT: Cut those SKUs completely…lower Home Premium’s OEM costs to @ or just above Starter. PR nightmare=gone!)

But they’ll never get it. If Microsoft is known for anything it is definitely *not* their excellent PR moves.

Grymoire says:

It's all about the money

Simply put, the OEM price of Windows 7 for Home Premium is $100. That’s potentially 25% of the cost of the $300 netbook w/o the OS.

Windows 7 starter is designed to (a) compete with Linux, and (b) still allow Microsoft to make money when people find out they need more than 1GB of RAM.

What other option do they have? They are NOT going to cut their profits in 1/2 for all of the laptops out there.

interval says:

Re: It's all about the money

“Windows 7 starter is designed to (a) compete with Linux, and (b) still allow Microsoft to make money when people find out they need more than 1GB of RAM.”

A) Kind of hard to compete with Linux when your os limits the number of user applications executing at once to 3 (or whatever the stupid number is) after paying $100 for it, something the netbook versions of Linux don’t do. And even then your still not limited to the “netbook version”, Ubuntu 9 (Is that intrepid ibex? I lose track of the release names), the full version, runs wells on my netbook.

B) Allowing Microsoft to continue to make money is the name of the game, isn’t it? I mean, its Microsoft’s world, we just surf the web in it.

WammerJammer (profile) says:

Why Does Microsoft Limit Netbooks?

I have been saying this for almost 30 years. Thank GOD for Microsoft!!! If they weren’t such idiots, I wouldn’t have had such a great job. I have fixed thousands of Microsoft driven computers. I have also had to fix about 10 Linux computers and we have way more of those in our office.
I curse Microsoft daily. Every day when I am working, particularly in the morning they interrupt me with a message to let them install an upgrade, while my computer is working fine. But they never leave you alone and if you don’t do it during the day they will do it automatically later. Can’t miss those upgrades.
As a programmer of these systems going all the way back to punch cards on a Prime, my prediction is that after Windows 8 they will cease to exist because of the new operating systems being developed. All of them use a Linux base with Java as the main coding language.
iPhone has a Unix based OS (remember the Next) with a Java interface and Microsoft doesn’t own either of those. They have been fighting with Sun over Java for years.
Android is a Linux base with a Java interface. They are all going that direction because it works and it works well.
The only business Microsoft might keep is their server software. But why anyone would use Winblows for their server I have no idea. Linux is free (donate or buy their book) and needs very little maintenance.
We run about 50 servers here and I forget we have them because they never stop running unless the hardware breaks. They never nag you to update them. I do it once a month just to keep up.
Microsoft has been reaming us for $3,000.00 a year to keep up with their development kits. We get the compiler and the tools and 4 update DVD’s a year for that.
Linux gives me all of the development tools with hundreds of external libraries to work with. I couldn’t believe it, I kept waiting for the computer to stop or the Software Police to knock down my door and take my goodies away.
See the writing on the wall with the development of .NET. It has add-ons for Linux and Firefox. The Linux community has even accepted .NET as a way to program. But that’s what Microsoft will become. A add-on for the other OS. If you have stock in Microsoft you have a year not much more.
So I am old now and close to retirement and I want to thank Microsoft for my $100,000 plus salary every year for maintaining and fixing their crap. It has been a good life.

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Why Does Microsoft Limit Netbooks?

I’m as much a Linux advocate as anyone else, but people have been calling for the death of Microsoft and Windows specifically for years at the hands of Linux to no avail. Apple has been chipping in to their share thanks to their brilliant marketing. Google has been helping Linux move forward, but it remains to be seen if they’ll be a major player or not. My money is on not right now, but I wil admit that there is potential.

The typical user will ask either for Windows, because it’s what they know, or a Mac, because they’ve heard good things about it or know someone else that uses it. Nobody is championing Linux to the average user. It will continue to have its niche markets (and dominate them), but I don’t know that we’ll ever see a mainstream push for Linux on the desktop, and especially on the corporate workstation. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, just that nobody is really *working* (ie. marketing) to make it happen.

known coward says:

Anyone remember

IBM’s Microchannel Basically IBM PC’s with microchannel (a 32 bit backplane that was the easiest box to configure for its time, with multiple weird hardware scenario’s.) The microchannel bus could be fast too, run at processor speeds too if it was allowed. hmmmm why was it not allowed. IBM was afraid PS/2 server sales would eat into their AS 400 sales (which used the same backplane technology). So they cut the hamstrings on the technology at the PC level).

You would think that Microsoft would have learned lessons from IBM on this issue. If you hamstring a product it will not generate revenues for your other products; but will make users look for alternatives.

(yes i know IBM was a bitch in licensing Microchannel, but it is even worse when you extort money for a for a broken product).

Marcel (user link) says:

Microsoft doesn't limit anything!

Microsoft isn’t limiting anything.
In fact, it’s the netbook makers who are limiting their netbooks by not being willing to pay the normal license fee for Windows 7 to be bundled with their device.

What Microsoft did is simple: they understood that a netbook should be a cheap but still pretty much complete device, and they wanted a share of that market.
They understaat that if a netbook-maker would want to sell a netbook for $300,- a $100 fee for OEM Windows 7 Home Premium would be a bad idea.

So, instead of lowering the price of Windows 7 Home Premium for everyone, they simply came up with a cheaper version of Windows 7, specifically intended for cheap netbooks and only available for devices which have certain (lower) hardware specs.
They do not want to sell that version to netbook makers who create $500 ‘netbooks’, because they feel that with those types of netbooks, the *normal priced* full functional version of Windows 7 is more appropriate, and it’s license fee is not out of place for such a device.
It’s the same as Oracle charging per CPU for their DB software…..it’s called market differentiation.

interval says:

Re: Microsoft doesn't limit anything!

You mean to tell me that even Microsoft thought that adding 25-35% to the price of a netbook was a bad idea? No kidding… oh, and by the way, yes, Microsoft is limiting something. These “Starter” editions of windows are limited to 3 (either 3 or possibly even 1, I don’t recall) userland applications running at once. Which means they had to actually modify the existing windows 7 code to accomplish this. Don’t give me their line of bs, I already know it.

nraddin (profile) says:

MS is not stopping them from using Win7 home on netbooks

They are just charging the same amount for it as tey do for any PC or laptop. Because starter is cheap they put it on the netbooks to keep the price down. The netbook guys could but home (Or above) on it no problem, but they don’t so that they are cheap. I have win7 home running on both of my netbooks no problem, thanks MSDN…

Joe (profile) says:

From the article:

“Blame Microsoft and its passive-aggressive rules governing Win 7 Starter. The Redmond, Wash., company will license this edition for sale only on computers with 1 GB or less of memory and a screen no larger than 10.2 inches.”

What’s the rule on OEMs selling machines with XP pre-installed? Is that totally out of the question now?

There’s really no compelling reason I can think of to run Win7 on a netbook. 1GB of RAM is more than enough to run XP. Surfing, emailing, chatting, Skyping, etc have all worked on XP for a long time, so why is having the “latest and greatest” OS even an issue here? Is XP just unavailable now or do these companies just think they NEED to run Win7?

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Agreed, but I’m specifically curious about XP. Sure Linux uses less resources, and you or I might be quite happy, maybe even happier, running it. But why are these companies using Win7 when it makes their hardware look like a steaming pile of Fail? Are they forced to (assuming they want to offer a Windows platform)?

McBeese says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I have Win7 HP running on two Asus Netbooks and I have not noticed any performance degradation over the OEM version of XP they came with. In fact, I perceive that Win7 is doing some things more efficiently.

The issue with staying on XP is mostly an issue of app compatibility, IMHO. Mainstream app and h/w developers like Microsoft, Skype, Adobe, Linksys, etc. have shifted focus to Win7. Increasingly, that will create issues for these app & h/w users who want to stay current but are running XP.

Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Are companies really writing software that will ONLY run on Win7 now? As far as I know, even DX10 still wasn’t taking off. Your explanation makes sense though from the OEMs view. Now I’m curious what the hardware limits on XP were for netbooks, but I’m too lazy to look. I think they were probably the same though, so I guess putting XP on instead of Win7 Starter wouldn’t help them get around that hardware limitation. They simply need to fork out the cash for the higher priced Home Premium license, bump up the RAM and charge more. Sad, considering netbooks are already so overpriced.

Jake (user link) says:

On The Other Hand...

Most of the limitations imposed by the Starter edition sound like what I’d have to do to get something approaching tolerable performance out of Windows 7 on a typical netbook. If they’re determined to make XP obsolete but can’t or won’t replace it with something that can run out of the box on low-end machines, I suppose this is the best they can do to keep a toehold in the market.

But just for the record, if a purpose trust with a budget of just $10 million largely relying on volunteer labour can create a full-featured operating system that’s functional on less than a quarter of Windows 7’s minimum specs then it shouldn’t be beyond the capabilities of the biggest commercial OS developer on the planet.

John says:


“3rd party support is kind of a cyclical problem. There’s not much interest in it because the market is so small, and the market remains small because there’s not much 3rd party support. “

While that’s true, I think it misses one aspect. The fact that 3d party software needs to be pretty damn special for Linux-users to pay for software. Not because they’re cheapskates, but because we’re so used to having a lot of software available for free. Legally, and in just about every category under the sun. That is, a pay-for piece of software needs to provide something free software can not provide (at least not now). Either by being a lot easier to use, or because there’s no free equivalent (or near equivalent).

Most if not all commercial/shareware software I’ve seen for Linux fails at doing that, which I’d say would make it easy for the publisher(s) to draw the conclusion that there’s no market for Linux-software when the conclusion should be that they do not provide enough incentive for people to buy.

As far as wine goes…one shouldn’t rely on it but sometimes it can come in real handy (and it’s a remarkable feat that it works at all…). Granted, I only use it for Spotify and Future Pinball but it works great for those.

drone says:

“Four (and this is for everyone), Netbooks are not geared for the kinds of people that frequent a page called Techdirt. They’re designed for the stereotypical grandma, grandpa, and farmer john to get online and check E-Mail. Not for gaming nor for advanced media playback. People looking for a cheap laptop to play WOW on need to look elsewhere. Linux is perfectly fine for a netbook.”

Weird. I frequent techdirt, and I own a netbook? And, you know – it runs XP just fine. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to have a CAD program, firefox, outlook, and a java dev environment all open at the same time, without performance issues. (And yes, in the next room over there’s both a linux machine and a vista machine. I like purpose-built hardware.)

It’s kinda funny how people talk about a 1.6Ghz machine and “how its not powerful enough” when I’m developing fairly advanced stuff to run on 16Mhz microprocessors. I like to laugh when I hear that.

FWIW, people “like us” buy netbooks because we want something light and portable. Me? I like to use mine in the field (read: out in the woods or up on a mountain somewhere) to preview photo work during downtime, or to drag along on business trips/whatever to do my dev and communication without having to lug along 10lbs of laptop.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

When netbooks were first made they weren’t made with people like us in mind. They weren’t made for running games, CAD, HD Video, or pretty much anything high end. Keeping this in mind when one looks at why there is a Windows 7 starter, one starts to see reason. Windows 7 Starter has only the basics for people who only use the basics. This is not to say that you can’t use more than that, but it wasn’t the goal of the netbook.

Just like how Windows XP home or Windows Vista cannot connect to a domain nor douse it have the advanced user control that the business versions use. This is not to say that you can’t network the home versions just fine, it just wasn’t made for it.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Just wanted you to know...

That while my adventurous nature will propel me to giving Ubuntu a twirl, you have all confused me to the point of oblivion, all while you’ve been incredibly kind in trying to be helpful.

Luckily, I realize this has more to do with me than you all. I guess I’ll really learn Linux the same way I learned security technology, CD drive virtualization, and bit torrent: by trying it, fucking it up, and then backtracking to learn what I did wrong.

But seriously, thanks everyone….

Brad Hubbard (profile) says:

Something needs clarification here:

MS will only license Starter on low end machines (under 10.2″ screen, 1G ram), but that’s an upper limit, NOT a lower-bound on normal versions of 7. It’s a way for manufacturers to cut costs. MS will happily license Windows 7 Ultimate to install on your little Netbook, and it’ll probably run just fine. They just don’t want some penny-pinching manufacturer to put Windows 7 Starter on a desktop or real work machine, since it would piss off customers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ubuntu vs. XP vs. Windows 7

I am a Windows power user, and after disliking Vista a lot, I switched to Ubuntu.

I was stunned at how quick and easy it was to install. Everything worked out of the box on my old and very crappy Compaq, and that was more than three years ago. Since then I’ve run Ubuntu on a range of laptops and desktops as I’ve upgraded or bought new ones, and my experience has always been positive overall.

Ubuntu ‘just works’. I’ve done everything with it at this stage, up to and including connecting it to an Xbox 360 to stream video. The biggest problem I had was with my current laptop, a little Lenovo S10 – the wireless just wouldn’t cooperate, and I was nearly tearing my hair out for a week… until I realised the wireless switch on the side was off. Ubuntu Netbook Remix btw.

I run games on Windows 7 Ultimate, on a PC built for gaming that doesn’t do anything else. I’ve a dual boot on it as well in case I need it. I’ve played WoW using Wine and had no problems, but how well it works depends heavily on what game you’re running.

I’d recommend Linux to anyone simply because I’ve found it to be solid as a rock, infinitely customisable, and easy to pick up for non-techy people. Yes, there’s a learning curve, but I think it’s worth it. 🙂 Start with a Ubuntu Live CD, and give it a chance, and I think you’ll like what you find.

senshikaze (profile) says:

Re: Ubuntu vs. XP vs. Windows 7

the thing is, the people who might switch to test it don’t because of any number of reasons, but are quiet about it. the people who scream linux is useless and scary and bad either have used it and been burned or don’t know what the hell they are talking about. sometimes even both. Really, people just need to chill. If i or anyone else wants to us linux, leave us alone. You don’t see me posting anywhere in here saying you shouldn’t use windows, I just don’t.
Lets agree to disagree. there is enough room in the world for both of us to have our own different OS without having to act like children.

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