MS Discusses Win7 Netbook Optimization and Limits

Dennis Faas's picture

It has been rumored for some time that netbooks, the slim-sized and under-powered notebooks sold for under $500, might not be able to handle Windows 7. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently dismissed that, and went on to discuss exactly how certain hardware restrictions define which version of Windows 7 a netbook can manage.

Ballmer outlined the special edition of Windows 7 for low-powered processors and small screens at Microsoft's annual financial analyst day. Netbook owners will receive a version of Win7 called Starter, which will not be sold directly to any consumers or businesses. Instead, it will only be available to OEMs like Acer, Dell, HP, and ASUS, some of the biggest names in netbook design. (Source:

Windows 7 Starter Edition

The restrictions on who can equip netbooks with Starter goes beyond the market place. In fact, Starter will be available for machines with only certain specs: under 1 GB of RAM, a sub-10.2 inch screen, a hard disk under 250 GB, and a single-core processor of less than 2 GHz. That covers most but not all of the netbooks on the market.

According to Ballmer, the restrictions are meant to optimize the system performance of the already trim netbook. "We want people to be able to get the advantages of lightweight performance and be able to spend more money with us, with Intel, with HP, with Dell and with many, many others," Ballmer said. (Source:

Starter Edition Means Less Bloat

To many, news of the hardware restrictions will actually be quite welcome. There's been a lot of concern amongst prospective Windows 7 owners that the operating system would be too demanding, perhaps even too 'bloated' to run effectively on a netbook. Both netbooks and Windows 7 represent the hottest hardware and software in the news today, and the idea that Win7 might run like Vista did on early netbooks is just plain scary.

Microsoft hasn't yet disclosed how much Starter will cost OEMs, thereby making it impossible to know for sure how much more consumers will be forced to pay in order to make the upgrade from an XP netbook to one boasting Win7, due October 22.

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