Windows 7 Starter Edition: Right or Wrong Choice for Microsoft's Netbook Play?By Frank Ohlhorst | Print
Will Microsoft's Windows 7 Starter Edition be a boon or a bust for the netbook market?
In an attempt to maintain market share and not lose out on the swelling netbook market, Microsoft is planning to offer a stripped-down version of Windows 7, called Starter Edition.
Windows 7 Starter Edition will be a crippled version of Windows 7 that will only be able to run three concurrent applications and will lack many of Windows 7’s advanced features.
The big question is, Will customers be willing to pay for an OS that is arguably less capable than Windows XP Home edition, which is currently found on the majority of netbook computers? Netbooks have proved to be a challenge for Microsoft—the company has had to make special exceptions to get netbook vendors to put a Microsoft OS on those systems, the end result being a step backward down to Windows XP.
Further adding insult to injury for Microsoft was that most netbooks simply did not have the horsepower to run Windows Vista, creating the impression that Vista is too bloated and slow to be efficient. Microsoft aims to fix perceptions and other problems with Windows 7 Starter Edition, but one wrong move here could derail Windows 7.
How will Apple respond to the launch of Windows 7 Starter Edition? I can picture the cute commercials now. Imagine a Mac commercial where the PC guy is shown juggling a couple of balls, the Mac Guy walks in juggling dozens of balls and throws one ball in the PC Guy's direction, and the PC Guy drops everything.
If Microsoft wants to capitalize on the netbook market and fight off the coming Apple netbook, the company will need to take a different approach. Here is what I suggest: First off, make sure that Windows 7 Starter Edition has a flawless browser—after all, most netbooks are for Web browsing. Second, make sure that Windows 7 Starter Edition runs Web applications efficiently—which will be the future for netbook computers. Third, offer Windows 7 Starter Edition for FREE and offer it now.
By offering it free, Microsoft could trounce all of the Linux distributions and build a large upgrade market at the same time. Also, Microsoft could limit Windows 7 Starter Edition to Intel’s Atom processor, making sure it stays only in the netbook market. What’s more, the free OS would be immune to most of Apple’s criticism—after all, it's free.
Microsoft could further its war on Apple by creating a dual-boot version of Windows 7 Starter Edition that would run on Apple’s forthcoming netbook, perhaps taking some of the polish off of Apple and creating an Apple netbook that is more business-friendly. After all, if it's free and if it's dual boot, then why wouldn’t an Apple user give it a try?
Many may wonder, would Microsoft be giving away a ton of profits by providing a free OS? Probably not. A free version of Windows 7 Starter Edition could build a level of excitement for Windows 7 proper not seen since the launch of Windows 95. Also, Microsoft could ramp up its applications store to sell products specifically meant for Windows 7 Starter Edition. Finally, Microsoft could offer discounts to registered users of Windows 7 Starter Edition for upgrades to Windows 7.
With a little less greed and a little more thought, Microsoft could turn Windows 7 into the must-have OS by simply giving away the Starter Edition.