Microsoft hobbles XP mini-notes with 1GB RAM limit

Bill Gates famously said that “640KB ought to be enough for anybody” but his company has now decided 1GB is enough for XP – that is if you’re running it on a mini-note.

As the new wave of mini-notes powered by Intel’s Atom processor starts to take off bringing low-cost mobile computing to the mainstream has learned that Microsoft is dictating that vendors limit their mini-notes to 1GB of RAM if they want to install XP.

The artificial memory ceiling is a condition of the OEM licence for Microsoft’s bespoke ‘netbook’ build of XP Home which includes SP3 a pre-loaded copy of the Microsoft Works suite and links to Windows Live online services.

A high-level spokesperson at a mini-note vendor speaking on the condition of anonymity told “This is a licensing restriction on netbooks. It’s not a hardware limitation. This is to deliberately separate XP netbooks from Vista notebooks.” has since learned that Acer has downgraded the memory specification on the Windows XP edition of its forthcoming Aspire One mini-note. A spokesperson confirmed to that the initial 1.5GB of RAM promised in its press release and Web site would be pared back to 1GB “due to XP restrictions”.

However the Linux-powered model will retain its 512MB of RAM and the ability to be upgraded by Acer or a tech-savvy user to 1.5GB by dropping a 1GB chip into the mini-note’s on-board memory slot.

Buyers of Acer’s XP mini-note would obviously be able to do likewise but the process necessitates removing the entire chassis (which can carry the subsequent risk of voiding your warranty). Unlike conventional laptops mini-notes are not designed with end-user upgrades in mind. There’s usually no door for accessing the memory slot and in many cases RAM is mounted directly on-board to speed up the production process and reduce costs.

It’s true that XP runs fine with 1GB of RAM and mini-notes aren’t faced with hardware-intensive tasks such as playing DVDs or editing video. However there’s no argument that with memory so cheap and the notebook industry starting to toggle to DD3 as part of the new Centrino 2 platform there’s plenty of benefit – from a vendor’s competitive standpoint as well as giving the user some extra overhead – to loading 1.5GB on deck.

Microsoft’s decision is also ironic given that it needlessly cruels one of the last remaining outlets for the seven year-old old OS in a market where Linux already has its foot in the door. And Windows remains the OS of choice for vendors who want to give their mini-notes maximum mainstream appeal. Windows bestows an instant familiarity as well as the ability for customers to install almost any of their current Windows program and have plenty of avenues for support should things go askew.

In an interview earlier this month with speaking on the ‘Linux v Windows’ mini-note issue Acer senior product manager Henry Lee said “The bulk of the requests and requirements we see in the marketplace are for the model with Windows rather than Linux”.