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Windows 7 to Usher in $200 Netbooks

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 23 comments

Microsoft said early on that Windows 7 Starter Edition would be targeted at low-cost PCs and netbooks. How does $200 sound?

Dell Mini 9 has reached $199, albeit with UbuntuDell Mini 9 has reached $199, albeit with UbuntuMicrosoft held a meeting with OEMs to discuss Windows 7 (what else?) and the topic of netbooks naturally came up. While we know that there will be six different SKUs of the OS, we don’t yet know at which price point each will sit.

What we do know, however, is that Windows 7 Starter Edition will be the cheapest one, which will be no doubt the option for OEMs looking to build the cheapest netbook running a Windows. Microsoft thinks that netbooks at the entry level could hit a new low price point -- something netbooks have been slowly moving further away from with ballooning feature sets.

“We have a couple of the OEMs continuing down a path to be very aggressive on price. It puts the pressure on everyone. We're anticipating opening price points to reach about $200 at least in the US market this holiday season,” said Mark Croft, the director of OEM Worldwide Marketing, according to a TechRadar story.

Interestingly, Croft added that Nvidia Ion machines could come in at just $50 more, making a $250 GeForce-equipped netbook sound very attractive.

Microsoft cautions, however, that pricing and specifications will like vary greatly. “There isn't a standard, uniform view of the world. Each OEM has nuances on this depending on what they think their brand value is, each one has a slightly different take on what they're trying to do in terms of market share or margin,” Croft added. “Some of them are trying to make $10 on this device or $20, and some are just trying to sell a unit and break even.”

While Windows 7 Starter Edition could become the usual flavor for the el cheapo netbook, Microsoft is pushing for the Home Premium edition to be the standard.

“We are clearly going to market to customers that Home Premium is the default,” said Croft. “We've made our case to the OEMs; we've shared some analyst data with them about customer preferences.”

Microsoft has said before that it would like for users of lesser versions of Windows 7 to upgrade. Artificial limits on Windows 7 Starter Edition, such as limiting the user to have only three programs running at once would quickly make a case for an upgrade. Encouraging OEMs to start with Home Premium would not only fulfill Microsoft’s business desire, but also give the end user a better experience. Sadly, that might not happen with a $200 netbook.

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  • 3 Hide
    jhansonxi , March 31, 2009 4:09 PM
    Starter edition is a stupid response to Linux popularity on the low end. They will almost have to pay OEMs to use it at a $200 price point. It will be interesting to see if ARM-based devices force them to make a Windows 7 version for it (or at least improve Windows CE enough to be usable).
  • -6 Hide
    jsloan , March 31, 2009 4:44 PM
    3 programs running at a time, is this really a limit on a netbook, do they have the memory/cpu to handle 3 programs at a time. do they even fit on the screen

    other than developers who really runs 3 programs at the same time. you basically run one or two
  • 6 Hide
    tayb , March 31, 2009 5:04 PM
    I'm running Firefox, AIM, 2 Microsoft Office Windows, 3 JCreator Windows, iTunes, PCSPIM, and Notepad right now. Not that I would ever waste my money on a crappy notebook some want to label a "netbook" but if I felt in the mood of tearing dollar bills to pieces I would at least get a version of Windows that allowed me to multi-task.
  • 5 Hide
    coldmast , March 31, 2009 5:08 PM
    ubuntu anyone
  • 2 Hide
    jhansonxi , March 31, 2009 5:21 PM
    jsloan3 programs running at a time, is this really a limit on a netbook, do they have the memory/cpu to handle 3 programs at a time. do they even fit on the screenother than developers who really runs 3 programs at the same time. you basically run one or two
    Three apps? Definitely. Start off with an IM and a VoIP client running in the background. That's two. Then add a music player. Then try to do something productive like use a web browser, PDF reader, or graphics editor.

    The question of handling larger and/or many applications depends on the architecture which isn't really defined yet. A 500MHz CPU, 256MB RAM, and 4GB of storage would handle common web browsing, IM, and media playing at the same time. I've done it with old hardware (AMD K6/2, Pentium III) that isn't as computationally efficient as modern devices.
  • 1 Hide
    gnesterenko , March 31, 2009 5:26 PM
    I do believe that I've read that background tasks don't count towards this 3 app limit. I could be wrong of course, but pretty sure I heard that somewhere. So all the little side-apps might not even count. We'll see.

    "The views expressed here are mine and do not reflect the official opinion of my employer or the organization through which the Internet was accessed."
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , March 31, 2009 5:46 PM
    i agree with gnesterenko that background tasks do not count. just look at the number of processes windows xp have when idle with no program opened by the user
  • -1 Hide
    FlayerSlayer , March 31, 2009 5:58 PM
    jhansonxiStarter edition is a stupid response to Linux popularity on the low end. They will almost have to pay OEMs to use it at a $200 price point.


    I remember a quote from Bill Gates at University of Washington in the late 90's. "About 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software. Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade. "

    Then remember also that by the time XBox360 was launched, the XBox program on the whole had still been a loss for Microsoft with all the development, advertising, manufacturing, and repairs costing more than the revenue.

    If MS has to lose money to push Netbooks with Windows, they'll do it just to maintain market share and keep people from getting used to Linux.
  • 1 Hide
    jhansonxi , March 31, 2009 6:53 PM
    gnesterenkoI do believe that I've read that background tasks don't count towards this 3 app limit. I could be wrong of course, but pretty sure I heard that somewhere. So all the little side-apps might not even count.
    I'd like to know how they determine when an application is just a "background task". If an IM is running in the system tray is it background or foreground? If I open it full-screen is it foreground? If I have a media player, web browser, and word processor open does an incoming IM message fail to pop-up unless I close something? Is there a window size limit for "background" apps like the 10.2in screen size limit for XP on netbooks?
  • 2 Hide
    Economister , March 31, 2009 7:15 PM
    $200 including MS's pound of flesh? Unlikely. With Linux, maybe
  • 3 Hide
    JonnyDough , March 31, 2009 7:21 PM
    The problem is that the average user won't be able to define what a background task is. For instance: How can I run AIM if I already have an anti-virus program, MSN, and my internet running?" How annoying would it be if your system runs a program on startup like Google Toolbar and counts it as one of your three? This just seems like a horrible idea. An operating system should provide a user WITH possibilities, not by specifically designed to take them away.
  • 1 Hide
    MrBradley , March 31, 2009 7:37 PM
    Windows 7 hasnt even been released so we dont know the exact details on what these background apps will be classified as. There can be many loose definitions.
  • 3 Hide
    LuxZg , March 31, 2009 8:03 PM
    Well, by some info available at winsupersite.com you can run way more than 4 apps. Antivirus won't count as an ap, and seems that anything that's built-in won't be counted either.

    Example 1: NOD32+SnagIt+WMP+IE8+Paint+WordPad+Windows Anytime Upgrade+Windows Explorer -> all works together
    Example 2: NOD32+SnagIt+Windows Live Photo Gallery+Windows Live Movie Maker+Windows Fax and Scan+Windows Explorer -> works fine

    Now, those are 8 and 6 apps in those examples, and they work. Maybe more can be run as well, you'd just have to figure out which are counted and which are not. This is actualy easy, force a limit reached, and than just try to open different applications. If they start - they aren't coutned in the limit.

    For me, this is low limit ON DESKTOP, but for netbook it's plenty. What can I do on it? I'd probably have NOD32+WMP+IE8+Messenger on all the time. Maybe Notepad/Wordpad if I want to write something down, or e-mail client (though I'd probably use webmail on netbook to save disk space). If you look up the above examples, this should work. Will I run 5 Excel windows with 10MB sheets, with SQL Query analizer, SQL server and who knows what else? Nope - I'd do that on desktop, but I mostly envision netbook usage a bit over the cell-phone (smartphone) usage. So mostly it will be one "main" app, and perhaps 2-3 bacground apps. Anyway, if you do hit the limit from time to time, you're probably over-extending netbook's capabilities as it is. And in that case you're heavy HEAVY user, and you'll pay extra for Home Premium on it.

    Most of us would just be happy to get their hand on a 200$ netbook that runs Windows 7 - even without shiny graphics and with all those limits.

    Oh, and as for "Starter" edition in general - I think my mom would never cross that limit, even on desktop. Tom's hardware readers are mostly tech-freaks and above-average users, so don't say it's useless just cos you've got more need. I don't think that smartphone is useless, even though I see no use in it (too small, too slow, too limited - FOR ME). But millions of people are buying them.

    If Starter = 200$ netbook, I'm ready for it. Just tell me where to stand in the line..
  • 0 Hide
    cadder , March 31, 2009 8:46 PM
    I'm not sure I would be happy with a "starter edition" OS, but many people would be OK with it. For me, 3 programs at a time would not be a limitation on a small machine like this. I want a 10" screen, decent keyboard, and 8 hour battery. I'm less interested in OS or other features, but I want a Windows OS since one of my uses will be developing software on it. (Meaning I would be fine with XP for now.)

    There are a few Windows netbooks that aren't that much above $200 now. I don't think the manufacturers will embrace the $200 price point. They seem to set a price point and then build a product to meet it. For instance a lot of people would be fine with an 80GB hard drive, and if a new 640GB hard drive is just under $100, then why can't we buy new 80GB hard drives for $20? The reason is that the manufacturers don't want to sell products that cheap. They will stop building the smaller drives and build bigger ones so they can charge more. I think the same would happen with netbooks. If they could build a stripped model and sell it for $200, they would rather add on a few more features and sell it for $300 or $400.
  • 0 Hide
    AndrewMD , March 31, 2009 9:37 PM
    3 app limit is not a problem for me either. I will most likely use this device as a terminal and remote connect to my office computer...
  • 0 Hide
    cbxbiker61 , March 31, 2009 9:54 PM
    It's funny how this article title seems to imply Microsoft has something to do with Ushering in $200 netbooks. It's lower cost hardware that's driving the move to sub $200 machines. Show me a $200 Windows machine and I'll show you a $180 Linux machine that doesn't artificially limit what you can do with it. And of course no anti-{virus,spyware} wasting your precious resources.
  • 0 Hide
    vaskodogama , March 31, 2009 10:11 PM
    cbxbiker61It's funny how this article title seems to imply Microsoft has something to do with Ushering in $200 netbooks. It's lower cost hardware that's driving the move to sub $200 machines. Show me a $200 Windows machine and I'll show you a $180 Linux machine that doesn't artificially limit what you can do with it. And of course no anti-{virus,spyware} wasting your precious resources.


    except you are using norton, nod32 using 1MB for its self.
    3 apps limit is a little harsh, but that's ok!
  • -1 Hide
    cbxbiker61 , March 31, 2009 10:14 PM
    A $200 Windows netbook is just the start.....What's it cost for productivity? Let's say $99 for Office school edition. Anti-virus software? probably $20-50. Now you're at $320-$350 whereas a Linux netbook that does more...costs less.

    Of course you could use Open Source software Like OpenOffice on the Windows machine for no cost...but it seems almost silly to do that when you've already decided to start down the toll road road to Microsoftville.
  • 0 Hide
    mdillenbeck , March 31, 2009 10:24 PM
    I am skeptical that Windows 7 will bring in netbooks at $200 if they weren't able to do it with a Linux distro.

    Out of curiousity, does anyone know if each tab/window in a browser like Chrome counts as a separate program running or as one app? (My understanding is Chrome hogs resources because each tab is actually its own process, thus a crash in 1 tab doesn't take out all the browser tabs/windows together.)
  • 1 Hide
    JonnyDough , March 31, 2009 11:01 PM
    LuxZgWell, by some info available at winsupersite.com you can run way more than 4 apps. Antivirus won't count as an ap, and seems that anything that's built-in won't be counted either.


    Ahh, I get it now. Microsoft wants us to use Internet Explorer for browsing the web on the latest tech frenzy. Netbooks and IE8 here we come. I see a class-action lawsuit coming already. Mozilla Firefox = 1 of 3 applications. Internet Explorer = Free application! Run another! This is why it's hip to be a hater...of M$.
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