Vista Starter - The Easy Button For Vista

Staples Easy Button

Windows Vista getting panned in the press is nothing new but I'm also struck by how often the everyday Microsoft user hates Vista. Just at dinner the other night with friends Hiro and Lisa, Hiro (a savvy user, but not an IT professional) commented at how complex Vista is to use and that he's sticking with Windows XP.

It took a while getting used to, and I had to shoot Vista's UAC immediately, but I've been using Vista Business and Home Premium since they came in early 2007. I really wanted to see what it took to use Vista from day one, and with only a few exceptions, I've been able to do that without a whole lot of problems. Pretty good considering I'm no Microsoft fanboy.

When it comes to the everyday user, especially those who don't use computers under the support of their IT group in a business, I often wonder how most end users get by. That's probably why all the "geek" professional services organizations have sprung up to support end users in retail stores or on site at businesses. But you have to ask, isn't there an easier way?

Rather than a general purpose computer operating system, the world could really use a slimmed down OS, designed to support the main consumer computing applications of web browsing, email, basic word processing, messaging, music playing/sharing, photo organization/printing/sharing, wireless and wired networking, and printing photos and documents. (Also see my recent post on vLite .) Most of the world lives on these basic applications. Hi-end gaming rigs, graphics intensive programs, running specialized vertical or business applications, etc., could all be something you do with a more general purpose OS version.

Windows Vista Starter edition
Enter Windows Vista Starter. You probably didn't know it but Microsoft has a slimmed down version of Vista, designed for beginning computer users. You get Internet Explorer, Windows Mail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Media Player, Windows Photo Gallery, Instant Search, Windows Sidebar Gadgets, Windows Defender, Parental Controls and Windows Update. I would imagine Wordpad or some equivalent is included but I don't see that listed on Microsoft's description.

Here's Microsoft's summary of what Windows Vista Starter does:

Windows Vista Starter provides everything you need to:

  • Easily browse the Internet
  • Communicate with friends and family around the world
  • Listen to music and watch videos
  • Store, print, and share photos online with easy-to-use tools
  • Limit a child's access to specific web sites, games, and other mature content with parental controls
  • Use educational, productivity, small business, and other software designed for Windows
  • Connect cameras, printers, speakers, and other hardware devices designed for Windows
  • Access updates and enhancements from Microsoft online

Sounds like a great computer for most home users, eh? The recommended system requirements for Vista Starter are:

  • Windows Vista Starter is licensed to run only on PCs with:

    Additional processors are approved for distribution to all Windows Starter countries EXCEPT those in Latin America:

    PCs with Intel Pentium M, Intel Core Duo, Intel Pentium Dual Core T2060, Intel Pentium Dual Core T2080, Intel Pentium Dual Core T2130, AMD Turion 64 Mobile (Single Core), AMD Turion 64X2 Dual-Core Mobile TL-50, TL-52, and TL-56

    Additional processors are approved for distribution in India ONLY:

    Intel Core 2 Duo E4500

    Intel Core 2 Duo E4400

    Intel Core 2 Duo E4300

    Intel Pentium Dual Core T2XX

    • Intel Celeron, Celeron D, or Celeron M processors
    • Intel Pentium 3 processors
    • Intel Pentium 4 processors not supporting Hyper-Threading technology
    • Intel Pentium 4 processors model 541, 531, 524, 661, 651, 641, 631, 630, 640, 650, 660, 670
    • Intel Pentium D 800 series and Intel Pentium D 900 series
    • Intel Pentium Dual Core E2XXX
    • AMD Athlon XP, Athon 64, AMD Athlon 64X2 Dual-Core, Duron, Geode, or Sempron processors
    • PCs with similar value processors from other manufacturers
  • 512 megabytes (MB) RAM or higher up to a maximum of 1024 megabytes (MB)
  • Audio output capability
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics and 32 MB of graphics memory
  • CD-ROM, DVD drive, or Combination drive
  • Monitor
  • Super VGA 800x600 resolution video adapter
  • Support for DirectX 9 graphics and 32MB of graphics memory
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse or compatible pointing device
  • Internet access (fees may apply)

... and the minimum requirements to run Vista Starter only need 384MB RAM and 16GB of hard disk space.

So is Vista Starter the OS version the masses really needs, vs. the over bloated Vista Home, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate editions? Is this Microsoft's answer to low cost Linux computers destined to take on Microsoft in the low priced computer market?

The answer could and should be YES in my opinion. There's only one catch. Windows Vista Starter isn't available to you and me here in the good 'ol USA or other "developed technology markets." Read on and you'll see what I mean -- this from Microsoft's Windows Vista Starter web site:

Windows Vista Starter is not available in developed technology markets such as the United States, the European Union, Australia, or Japan. Windows Vista Starter ships on lower-cost computers sold by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Microsoft OEM distributors in 139 countries.

Let me translate. Since the market will bear the price of $99 to upgrade to Vista Home, or more for other Vista upgrades and full purchases, Microsoft is only offering Windows Vista Starter in markets who won't or can't pay that much money. That's exactly the market the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and other low costs computers are going after.

Microsoft, you're making a big mistake. You could squelch much of the VIsta backlash, put some smackdown on the Linux desktop market, and make Vista easier to use for so many who really just want an easy to use consumer PC. Offer a Vista Starter edition for "developed technology markets."

Maybe Microsoft is just holding this card in their back pocket to pull out when the going gets tough enough. Microsoft, if you were smart, Vista Starter would be the entry point computer operating system for all of us, with Vista Home, Home Premium and the others as paid upgrade paths.

The other possibility is Microsoft pulls out Vista Starter once On Demand software is taking over the desktop, and Vista Starter is the perfect OS to run Windows Live applications over Google's offerings.

In either case, I take it that these two threats (Linux desktops and Google Apps) aren't yet enough of a threat to bring out Vista Starter in broader markets. But look for this to happen, as Vista is still gaining momentum in its downhill public perception slide.

Windows Vista Starter could be Microsoft's Plan B.

Like this? Here are some of Mitchell's recent posts.

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