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Microsoft breaks Windows 7 three-apps netbook handicap

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Microsoft has made a major concession on Windows 7 for netbooks, saying it'll no longer restrict the number of applications you can run concurrently.

Windows 7 Starter Edition will let you run more than three applications at one time, Microsoft's Windows 7 evangelist Brandon LeBlanc blogged Friday afternoon.

Late on a Friday is traditionally a good time to bury bad news, but this change is significant. Starter Edition, which has been available for years on low-end PCs and on PCs in developing countries, is emerging as a key Microsoft offering for netbooks that run Windows 7 - which is expected later this year.

In other regards, Windows 7 Starter Edition will retain just a limited subset of features that will be found in the other planned SKUs of Windows for laptops and PCs.

Windows 7 Starter Edition will not include the Aero Glass interface and will lack the highly touted Taskbar Previews and Aero Peak. You also won't get DVD playback, Windows Media Center to watch or record TV or other media, Remote Media Streaming, or the heavy-duty Windows XP Mode to run Windows XP applications in a virtualized desktop.

LeBlanc did not give precise reasons for the change. He blogged that it would, though, make "Windows 7 Starter an even more attractive option for customers who want a small notebook PC for very basic tasks, like browsing the web, checking email and personal productivity."

Microsoft told The Reg that its action was based on customer and partner feedback.

Windows 7 for netbooks will come under pressure from Windows XP and Linux in the coming months and years. Microsoft certainly didn't need to handicap Windows 7 at the start, making it less attractive to users, so the change should be seen in this context.

It will remain to be seen, though, whether the changes will satisfy. While most consumers could likely do without Windows XP Mode, keeping out media playing and streaming features will be regarded as a miserly scrimping on glittery consumer features that's clearly intended to up-sell.

More-adventurous users might be happy to download their own non-Microsoft players, or treat the netbook as a lightweight second machine that doesn't need media. Most ordinary consumers won't, though, and will - rightly - expect a fully functioning, self-contained PC package out of the box. ®

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