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February 7, 2009
First, let me point out that I think Microsoft has done a reasonably good job developing Windows 7. Most early buzz about the operating system was positive. But when it comes to running Windows 7 on netbooks, Microsoft has made a fatal design decision that will open the door for more Linux netbooks. Skeptical? Consider the evidence.
Microsoft’s Windows 7 Starter edition — which will target netbooks — can only run three applications simultaneously. Did somebody suddenly rewind the clock 15 years? Has Microsoft lost its mind? Even novice users run far more than three applications during one sitting.
Here’s the irony: Windows 7 was supposed to solve Microsoft’s major headache on netbooks, where Linux-based systems have been pressuring Microsoft’s profit margins. But just when Microsoft was about to push Linux off more netbooks, the software giant comes up with one of its worst design and marketing decisions since Microsoft Bob surfaced more than a decade ago.
Here’s how I expect the story to play out:
Educated customers will reject Windows 7 Starter because of the three application limit. Instead, they’ll opt for higher-end Windows 7 notebooks or jump to Linux netbooks.
Unsuspecting customers will eagerly purchase low-cost netbooks with Windows 7 Starter, only to learn about the three-application limit. They’ll return the systems, causing a PR and financial nightmare for Microsoft and its OEMs.
Ultimately, Microsoft will be forced to (A) discontinue Windows 7 Starter or (B) eliminate its three-user (UPDATE/CORRECTION: three application) limit.
A side note: As I predicted, the Windows 7 launch would force the mainstream media (The Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek, in particular) to mention Linux as a viable alternative to Windows.
Now, thanks to Microsoft’s flawed logic with Windows 7 Starter, The Wall Street Journal is writing about the Windows vs. Linux showdown on netbooks. Clearly, Microsoft has hurt Windows 7’s chances on netbooks even before the operating ships.
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