by Shane O'Neill

Death of Windows 7 Starter’s 3-App Limit a Life Saver for Microsoft

Jun 01, 20093 mins
Data Center

Whacking the three-application limit on Windows 7 Starter Edition for netbooks will serve Microsoft well down the road.

Microsoft has eliminated the three-application limit on Windows 7 Starter Edition. Apparently, negative customer and partner feedback were too much to take.

Microsoft made note of the adjustment to Windows 7 Starter in a post on its Windows Team blog.

According to post writer and Windows Communication Manager Brandon LeBlanc:

“Based on the feedback we’ve received from partners and customers asking us to enable a richer small notebook PC experience with Windows 7 Starter, we’ve decided to make some changes compared to previous Starter editions.”

Sidenote: Why can’t they just call them “netbooks”?

LeBlanc goes on:

“We are going to enable Windows 7 Starter customers the ability to run as many applications simultaneously as they would like, instead of being constricted to the 3 application limit that the previous Starter editions included. We believe these changes will 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 e-mail and personal productivity.”

So there you have it. Windows 7 Starter, the bare bones version of Windows and the one that most believe PC makers will preload on netbooks, just gained some flexibility to keep the increasing army of netbook users happy.

Getting rid of the three-app limit was a good move for Microsoft for two reasons: It gives users more flexibility and removes the dreaded “crippleware” label. It will also remove the perception that Microsoft intentionally put a limit on the Starter version so people would upgrade to the pricier Windows 7 Home Premium.

Microsoft has yet to announce Windows 7 pricing for OEMs or consumers.

A three application limit isn’t as bad as it sounds for basic computer use (the limit excluded background processes such as anti-virus applications, wireless and Bluetooth, and system tools like Explorer and Control Panel). The limitation does not include multiple windows of the same application. Really, how often are you running more than a browser, and e-mail application and IM at once? Not often, but not never. So the three-app limit could get annoying, and moreover, it’s a limitation. Nobody likes limitations. You feel like you’re not in control of the computer you purchased.

Clearly, Microsoft is taking Windows 7 and netbooks seriously. The Starter versions of XP and Vista, sold only in a few markets outside the U.S., both have a three-app limit. The removal of the three-app limit in Windows 7 will be a first for Windows and is part of a grander plan to control how netbooks are categorized through Windows 7. Microsoft has reportedly created specs for OEMs to keep netbooks small and prevent them from cannibalizing laptop sales (i.e. With Windows 7, if the screen is bigger than 10.2 inches, then it’s not a netbook, it’s a laptop and it will be priced as such).

Microsoft is doing a commendable job of using Windows 7 to create boundaries with netbooks and also make the transition to the new OS smoother. The confusion and resentment that may have come with a three-app limit could have given netbook users a big, fat reason to try Linux.

And with the widespread speculation that Google’s Linux-based Android OS will be running on netbooks in the near future, Microsoft is dodging a bullet by killing the three-app limit.

This early death was a wise move.

Does the elimination of the three-application limit make you more interested in running Windows 7 Starter Edition on a netbook?