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Windows 7 Starter Edition – Movin’ on up!



Windows 7 Starter Edition logo

Windows 7 Starter Edition logo

Yesterday, the Windows Team blog announced some changes they’re making to the upcoming Windows 7 Starter Edition. They’re removing some limitations (no more 3 application limit, not just for emerging markets) but retaining a whole lot of others (no Aero, no changing the wallpaper, no multimon support, etc).

Now I don’t know about you, but the Windows 7 Starter Edition smells a lot like “Windows 7 Home Basic Edition” to me. And in fact, if you dig just a little bit, you’ll find this informative Microsoft press release, where Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra says:

We know emerging markets have unique needs and we will offer Windows 7 Home Basic, only in emerging markets, for customers looking for an entry-point Windows experience on a full-size value PC.

We’ll also continue to offer Windows Starter edition, which will only be offered pre-installed by an OEM. Windows Starter edition will now be available worldwide. This edition is available only in the OEM channel on new PCs limited to specific types of hardware.

So there we have it. Microsoft is officially changing the label on the SKU that used to be “Home Basic” to “Starter Edition”. And they’re changing the label on what used to be “Starter Edition” to “Home Basic”. Smooth move, Microsoft. That ought to generate a whole new set of I-was-confused-by-the-sales-guy-when-shopping-for-a-computer lawsuits.

How about eliminating altogether the SKU complexity you’ve wrought with Vista and simplify to the old Win2000 and WinXP edition scheme. This is how I read Ybarra’s opening remarks in the press release.

My advice: Keep “Pro” for businesses and higher-end users, and “Home” for everybody else, with minor accomodations for the European Union and wherever else you’re having legal issues.

Having the number of SKUs that was introduced in Windows Vista adds to the complexity of the test matrix, as well as the complexity of the customer’s decision matrix. Although I guess that since large businesses are restricted by their Select Agreements, they really have only one choice: Enterprise.

Just so that I’ve clarified for GBM readers, here are the Windows 7 Editions, presented in order from leanest to most feature-packed.

  • Windows 7 Home Basic Edition (only for emerging markets)
  • Windows 7 Starter Edition (worldwide, only for netbooks)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium Edition
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Enterprise (only for Select Agreement customers)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate (everything, the kitchen sink, and Ballmer’s ham sammich in this one)

Not listed: any ‘N’ editions or others specific to dealing with legal issues in specific countries/regions.

Look familiar?



  1. GoodThings2Life

    05/30/2009 at 12:08 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. Sumocat

    05/30/2009 at 1:49 pm

    I agree with your premise, but I never liked the “home” tag. Just go with “basic” for low-powered machines that can’t handle Aero and the tablet and media center bits, and premium for every other consumer PC. Basic, Premium, Business/Pro and Ultimate should be clear enough for customers (I’d be inclined to merge the latter two, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessary).

  3. Ben

    05/30/2009 at 9:12 pm

    What special needs do emerging markets have? Even if i was in an emerging market, i’d still want my computer to do the same things as any other computer. my only guess is the cost.

  4. Hilton Locke

    05/31/2009 at 12:14 am

    @Ben, while it’s mostly about cost, there is also consideration to be made for the types of hardware commonly found in emerging markets. Most of the time we’re talking about One Laptop Per Child gear or trickle-downs from the US that are 3 or 4 generations back that couldn’t run Aero even if it were available.
    The primary thing in my mind regarding emerging markets is providing basic communications and internet access.
    One reason Microsoft has for providing a stripped down Windows is user familiarity. Getting new users hooked on the Windows environment is worth something to Microsoft even if the revenue from the OS sale is zero or slightly negative.

  5. Ben

    05/31/2009 at 4:24 am

    Thanks for the answer, Hilton.

  6. blash

    05/31/2009 at 7:03 am

    But the million dollar question is, why should you care when none of the major US OEM’s will even bother to load this Starter edition – and when you’ll just load a pirated copy of Ultimate edition on if they do? I mean really, in all honesty…

  7. sfwrtr

    06/01/2009 at 1:40 pm

    “no changing the wallpaper”!?

    Changing my wall paper is where I draw the line! I could deal with only three apps running, but the same wallpaper for the three year life span of the machine? Bet that would get more upgrades than the app limits would have.

  8. Virtuous

    06/01/2009 at 2:10 pm

    You can be sure Apple will ridicule MS for Starter Edition. Removing the ability to change wallpaper is an arbituary mickey mouse decision.

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