Windows 7 starter edition – really that bad?

In my mission to evaluate Windows 7 vs Ubuntu as my operating system of choice I decided to check out Windows 7 starter edition.  It looks likely that Microsoft will be pitching this at netbooks as the successor to Windows XP.

I used vLite to extract Windows 7 starter edition from the DVD and remove the language files before I packed it as an ISO and installed it inside a Virtualbox virtual machine on my laptop.  Windows 7 starter edition installed in much the same way/time as the Ultimate edition did on my netbook.  Eventually Windows 7 started up and I got to play.

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The first thing that hits you is the lack of Aero.  Microsoft hopes you will want to pay extra for this feature – and Windows 7 with no aero interface feels very lacklustre and dull.  The wallpaper cannot be customised (in fact the whole customise menu option is missing) and so you are stuck with whatever wallpaper Microsoft thinks you should have.

The most documented ‘feature’ of Windows 7 starter edition is the 3 application limit.  I expected this to be much worse than it actually was.  To be fair I’m not running the wireless connection software for my 3G modem in this test machine so I can’t verify if similar applications would count towards the limit or not.

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When you try to start another program you get an error message warning you the “maximum number of programs is already open”.  How this limit is determined is hard to tell.  On the picture above you can see I had 4 pieces of software running – Firefox, Paint, Word and Excel.  When I quit Excel it wouldn’t run again – and I got the maximum programs error.

I did a quick experiment and quit Word.  I started up Solitaire and quickly started up Powerpoint at the same time – both pieces of software started up and so I was running 4 again.  It would appear that by rapidly launching several pieces of software you can get more than the 3-application limit, although I quickly tired of this experiment so didn’t take it any further.

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Another limitation of Windows 7 starter edition became apparent when I tried to use the snipping tool to take some screenshots.  It wasn’t there!  Obviously this is another feature that netbook users don’t need (in the world of Microsoft).  The picture below shows the accessories menu from starter edition:

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So what were my impressions of Windows 7 starter edition?  It depends how you use your netbook.  If like me you use it a lot (I use mine all day at work as other staff at work use a laptop) then you’ll find that this version falls short of the mark.  I found the interface dull and unappealing, and the 3 application limit annoying at times.  If you only use your netbook for email and web surfing, or you are only an occasional user, then you will probably not mind the limitations of this version.

Personally I would rather use Ubuntu than Windows 7 starter edition, for the reasons I’ve mentioned above – Microsoft fail!  What do you think?  Leave your comments below.

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