Windows 7 Starter is a non-starter

Microsoft's is offering a stripped-down version of its new Windows 7 OS--called Windows 7 Starter--that's aimed especially at netbooks. The idea is to get netbook users off Windows XP--an OS Microsoft is trying to phase out--and onto the latest and greatest. Unfortunately, there's nothing all that great about Windows Starter, and it may just end up removing the one selling factor keeping Windows ahead of Linux--and Google's Android--in the huge netbook marketplace.

When Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci talked about his company's experience in porting Android to netbooks, he wasn't all that impressed. And he said that in some ways, Windows easily trumps Android on netbooks, especially on the computing vs. communications side. But in the end, netbooks need more features, not less. As he says:

"Android in my opinion is for communications," he said. "And Windows comes at the market from the computing side. An ideal solution would offer both."

So assuming Microsoft and Google are both working at shoring up their shortcomings when it comes to netbooks, Microsoft's Windows 7 Starter--which can only run three apps at a time--seems an odd play. It actually weakens Microsoft's one strength--computing--by crippling the OS and making it less functional. Not a smart idea, especially when Google is coming on so strongly with Android.

Of course, Microsoft argues that even in its stunted form, Windows 7 Starter is easier and more reliable than XP, which is the main reason Microsoft has a play in the netbook arena at all. But if price-conscious netbook users can get Linux (and now consumer-friendly, easy-to-use Android) for the same price or cheaper, plus get all the functionality they need--including the ability to run more than three apps at a time--Windows Starter loses handily. When it comes to netbooks, Windows Starter is just one big non-starter.

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