Windows 7 Starter drops three-app limit

In the wake of criticism from everyone from hardware makers to netbook enthusiasts Microsoft has relented on the strict three-application limit built into the Starter edition of Windows 7.

Windows 7 Starter was aimed as the entry-level OS available for netbooks – or ‘small notebooks’ as Microsoft has taken to calling them – but in keeping with the previous XP and Vista editions created for developing countries could run only three full-window programs at once.

Attempts to launch a fourth program resulted in a message proclaiming “Maximum number of windows is already open” and suggesting that if you want to open another program then you’d better close one first – along with of course a promo for instantly upgrading to Windows 7 Home edition which faced no such artificial restrictions.

The good news: you’ll no longer see this dialog box when running Windows 7 Starter on your netbook…

Early this morning Sydney time Microsoft announced that the final RTM edition of Windows 7 Starter would work like every other version of the OS and allow users to run as many simultaneous apps as their PC could handle.

“We believe these changes will make Windows 7 Starter an even more attractive option for customers who want a small notebook PC for very basic tasks like browsing the web checking email and personal productivity” wrote Microsoft in-house blogger Brandon LeBlanc on the company’s official Windows 7 Team Blog.

The not-so-good-news: you’ll still see this dialog box a fair bit as Microsoft has plenty of
other ways to encourage you to upgrade to a more fully-featured edition of Windows 7

However Windows 7 Starter still has many handicaps designed to lessen its functionality and appeal compared to more expensive editions of the OS. Systems running Windows 7 Starter won’t support the Aero Glass UI “meaning you can only use the Windows Basic or other opaque themes” writes LeBlanc. “It also means you do not get Taskbar Previews or Aero Peek.”

Also missing from the mix: the ability to change desktop backgrounds window colours or sound schemes; fast user switching (one user has to log off before another can log on); multi-monitor support DVD playback and Windows XP Mode.

These limitations are partnered with the restricted hardware specs which Microsoft has decreed for Windows 7 netbooks which prevent a netbook running Windows 7 to be sold with more than 1GB of RAM and fix the screen to a maximum of 10.2 inches down from the current XP-based ceiling of 12.1 inches.

So while killing the three-app limit makes Windows 7 Starter far more usable as a netbook OS Microsoft has plenty of other plays in place to ensure there’s a substantial gap in functionality between a netbook running the low-margin OS and a larger notebook – be it still a 12 inch netbook a thin-and-light ULV system or a conventional laptop – running an upscale edition of Windows 7.