Many users looking to buy a netbook are put off by units that come with
Windows 7 Starter Edition, according to a survey by an online consumer
comparison shopping site. Unfortunately, the site, Retrevo.com, found
consumers have little choice.
The site found that most of the netbooks sold by Amazon.com — 23 out of
28 — came with what Retrevo referred to in a blog post as “a low-end feature-starved version that lacks many of the features that make other versions of Windows 7 so attractive.” In short, they almost all come with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 7 Starter Edition pre-installed.
So Retrevo decided to ask its customers what they think.
With some 1,100 consumers responding, the non-scientific survey found that 56 percent said they’d be dissatisfied if a new netbook came with Starter Edition, the lowest-end edition of the new Windows 7 operating system.
In addition, 61 percent did not realize that Windows 7 Starter Edition lacks features that come standard with Windows XP, which until now has been the most popular operating system to ship with netbooks.
For example, Starter Edition lacks multiple monitor support, the ability to personalize the desktop, and DVD playback capabilities. It also does not sport the Aero user interface.
Despite that, however, 54 percent of the respondents said they knew the
differences between the various editions of Windows 7. Of course, that also
means that 46 percent do not.
Microsoft has been trying to kill off XP for at least two
years, but the aging OS has remained popular as a low-cost system for netbooks. It’s also proven to show staying power in the corporate world, with some enterprise IT shops purchasing Windows Vista systems and then exercising their right to “downgrade” those systems to XP.
However, the runaway popularity of netbooks — low-powered laptops with small
keyboards and screens that typically cost less than $400 — prompted Microsoft to respond with a version of Windows 7 it believes is tailored to such a market.
Now, with the advent of Windows 7 and Starter Edition in particular, Microsoft is again looking at ending XP’s reign. For one thing, the Wall Street Journal said in an April story that Microsoft only gets around $15 per copy of XP that goes onto a netbook, compared to twice or three times that for Vista on a regular notebook PC.
Although Microsoft has not disclosed what it’s getting for each copy of
Windows 7 Starter, Microsoft executives have said it is more than it gets
for the eight-year old XP.
“With today’s netbooks, we sell you XP at a price. When we launch Windows
7, an OEM can put XP on the machine at one price, Windows 7 Starter Edition
at a higher price, Windows 7 Home Edition at a higher price, and Windows 7
Professional at a higher price,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in July at the company’s annual financial analysts meeting.
Beyond Starter Edition’s shortcomings, however, Microsoft has done a few
things to make it more attractive to netbook buyers, including lifting what
had originally been a three-application limit for netbooks.
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company would have no direct comment
regarding the Retrevo survey.