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Windows 7 Starter Edition - Is It Really That Bad?

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 54 comments

Windows 7 Starter Edition's three-app limit is real, but is it really that bad?

The Windows 7 beta and release candidate that some of us have been running are the Ultimate versions. Given the option to test any SKU that we want, why not go for the best one?

The thing is that the version that most of us will be using won’t be the top one. Microsoft said before that it expects that the Home Premium version to be the most popular one – especially bundled with decent pre-built machines. While Home Premium will be enough for most of us, what about lesser versions?

Windows 7 Starter Edition is expected to be the OS for low-cost netbooks. With the lowest licensing fee, OEMs wanting to keep costs low will go for the cheapest version of Windows 7. But will Starter Edition do? With the three-applications-open-at-a-time limitation, many users are already writing Starter Edition off as something unusable. To find out more, Ed Bott last month blogged on ZDNet about his time with Starter Edition, and some of his findings might surprise you.

“For starters, that three-app limit isn’t as cut and dried as it sounds,” Bott wrote. “Well, for starters, you can open as many windows as you want from a single program. So if you want to open 15 tabs in your browser, six images in your photo-editing program, and a couple of instant messenger windows, you can do it.”

System applications such as Windows Explorer, Control Panel, Task Manager, Command Prompt and even desktop gadgets do not count as applications, so you can navigate through your system tools as much as you like without stepping into the three-application limit. Antivirus software also seems to live outside the three-app limit, as does some system utilities that start up and reside in the system tray.

Bott concluded that Starter Edition proved adequate for netbooks when used as the way they are intended. “In short, when I used this system as a netbook, it worked just fine. On a netbook, most of the tasks you’re likely to tackle are going to take place in a browser window anyway. … If I tried to use this system as a conventional notebook, running multiple Microsoft Office or OpenOffice aps, playing music in iTunes or Windows Media Player, and using third-party IM programs, I would probably be incredibly frustrated with the limitations of Starter Edition.”

How do you use your netbook? Would Windows 7 Starter Edition be good enough, or will upgrading be one of the first things you'll do?

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Top Comments
  • 27 Hide
    alvine , May 8, 2009 6:57 PM
    i think hackers will find a way around this
    just my opinion
  • 10 Hide
    mtyermom , May 8, 2009 6:59 PM
    I could also see this coming standard on ultra low cost desktops, but I doubt MS wants it there.
Other Comments
    Display all 54 comments.
  • 27 Hide
    alvine , May 8, 2009 6:57 PM
    i think hackers will find a way around this
    just my opinion
  • 10 Hide
    mtyermom , May 8, 2009 6:59 PM
    I could also see this coming standard on ultra low cost desktops, but I doubt MS wants it there.
  • 7 Hide
    08nwsula , May 8, 2009 7:00 PM
    This is kind of like Vista's User Account Control. Both had good intentions, but really were not what people needed. Just like UAC, I think this new concept wont last very long.
  • 5 Hide
    tenor77 , May 8, 2009 7:02 PM
    It's bad if this includes start up programs that most users neglect to manage.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , May 8, 2009 7:09 PM
    I use my netbook daily.

    At a minimum, I have my email client (Evolution), a web brower (Firefox) and an IM program open (pidgin). With Win7 I'd be at the limit right there, so say I get an email with a .doc file: I'd have to close either my IM program or web broswer to view it??? Edit an image in Gimp? Complete garbage. Makes me even more glad I switched to Linux long ago.

    The only way the usage he describes would be typical is if people had no other choice but starter edition. Of course MS knows this, and is hoping these duped people are daft enough to pay for an upgrade to an OS that is actually usable.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 8, 2009 7:12 PM
    if AV does not count as a program, I'd agree. Set Azureus in msconfig bootup programs, and perhaps it's not counted as a program.
    On my mini notebook I generally have anti virus/firewall/popupblocker, firefox upto 12 tabs, eeectl (to boost processor speed and wifi range), mousepad drivers, sometimes a movie with wmp.
    I'd never run wmp together with office on my mininotebook. the screen is too small and I just can't do 2 things at the same time. MSN Messenger alikes, I no longer use. If AV and perhaps explorer / internet explorer windows are not counted in the 3 programs it is plenty sufficient I'd think; although on my eeepc, if I would run eeectl, mousepad driver (synaptics pointing device) and GMAbooster I can no longer do anything else with it...
  • 0 Hide
    LordConrad , May 8, 2009 7:18 PM
    I would never notice it. I am very one-track minded and I never have more than one or two windows open at a time anyway, on my desktop or my laptop. I never understood how people can get work done with so much crap open at once.
  • 2 Hide
    mrfisthand , May 8, 2009 7:23 PM
    It's fine, IF it's cheap and doesn't take up much space. Anyone who's dealt with XP on a SSD netbook knows what I mean here.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 8, 2009 7:33 PM
    What are the differences between the Starter edition and the one just next to it? Is it only the 3 apps limitation? if so, The price difference will go with it: You can pay less and get a limitation.

    Just like XP, Hackers will find a way to turn a starter edition into a Ultimate edition.
  • 3 Hide
    AndrewMD , May 8, 2009 7:38 PM
    Unfortunately the major of the negative feedback that is on this post for this product is unrealistic being that most posters will not run this version of Windows 7 anyway! Do I think this is a bad idea? NO. Microsoft needs to preserve the OS and the performace of the netbook and lower powered computers that are still on the market and that will be continued to be produced.

    Three application limit is enough when you put it in prospective of a system running at least 1gb memory, under 1.6ghz single core, and a slower RPM HDD...

    Also, when compared to an iPhone for example which allows only 1 program at a time then why the complaints. Is it because Microsoft did not glamourize the other features? Or make it sound ground breaking enough? If Apple were to produce an iPhone based netbook are you going to complain then when only one application can run?

    Give me a break.... Go buy ultimate if you want NO LIMITATIONS!
  • -1 Hide
    terr281 , May 8, 2009 7:53 PM
    If, as this article suggests, "Windows" Apps are not counted in the 3 application limit, then this edition of Win7 would work fine for most Office workers as well.

    How many office workers actually "use," as part of their job, more than the following at any given time:

    1. Email (Outlook)
    2. One Office Application (Word)
    3. Internet Explorer... (Most workers use IE for personal work at "work"...not work.)
    4. Windows Explorer (Not counted)
    5. Antivirus (Not counted)
    6. Wifi Program (Not counted)
    7. Adobe Acrobat, another Office Application, etc.

    As AndrewMD suggests, for the computers this OS will be installed on...3 is a good enough number. If 4 would have been chosen, then this edition could be installed on almost ALL business oriented laptops. (And, MS doesn't want that...)

    This is just like the silly difference in XP Home and XP Pro. (Pro can't join a domain.) If Home could have joined a domain, then businesses wouldn't have used Pro since almost everything is managed via Group Policy via Active Directory.
  • -4 Hide
    dman3k , May 8, 2009 7:59 PM
    why not have a 7 app limit?
  • 3 Hide
    tamick88 , May 8, 2009 8:02 PM
    "running multiple Microsoft Office or OpenOffice aps, playing music in iTunes or Windows Media Player, and using third-party IM programs, I would probably be incredibly frustrated with the limitations of Starter Edition.”
    Seriously, other than people who have tons of money to burn, who wouldn't do these common everyday tasks on a netbook they purchased? Is it so far-fetched that they should be able to do a few of these things at the same time especially since netbooks are starting to get decently fast?
  • -8 Hide
    deltatux , May 8, 2009 8:07 PM
    Well, just on system boot up, my system already runs more than 3 ... so Starter Edition is already completely useless to me.
  • -7 Hide
    akoegle , May 8, 2009 8:08 PM
    Where'd the Duke Nukem page go!?!?!?!!?
  • 0 Hide
    rembo666 , May 8, 2009 8:18 PM
    If I had a netbook, I think the 3 app limit would be enough--the things are so slow I wouldn't dare running more than one or two things at the same time.

    However, I don't have a netbook. What I have is a CarPC with an Atom motherboard. Windows 7 Starter Edition would be perfect, because I only run maximum of 3 applications at the same time: the CarPC Front End, Internet Explorer, and the GPS program (which is a part of most CarPC front ends, but not in my case). Starter Edition would save money, while saving the time of stripping down a "Full Fat" version of the OS. Perfect for this embedded application!
  • 2 Hide
    bourgeoisdude , May 8, 2009 8:29 PM
    alvinei think hackers will find a way around this just my opinion

    Yes, but why? Why not just download an illegal version of Windows 7 Ultimate with all the functionality instead of bothering with "fixing" the version with crippled functionality?
  • 1 Hide
    cadder , May 8, 2009 8:55 PM
    99% of the time it would not be a problem for me on any of my computers- work, home or laptop.
  • -7 Hide
    Anonymous , May 8, 2009 8:55 PM
    This why they need to release Windows ME for netbooks. This way you get full functionaily plus a lite OS environment. This seems like a perfect solution to me.
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