In one of the worst marketing moves for an upcoming operating system I can ever recall, Microsoft has said that it will limit to three the number of applications people can run simultaneously on many Windows 7-equipped netbooks. I can't think of a better way to kill demand for the new operating system.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft will sell a Starter edition of Windows 7 on netbooks. That Starter edition will only allow people to run three applications at the same time. If they want to run more, they'll have to pony up with more money, although the article didn't say how much more money they'd have to pay.
Why the limit? Microsoft gets less for Windows per netbook than it gets for laptops or desktops. At the moment, netbooks don't run Vista because it's too heavy an operating system, and so they only run XP. The Journal reports that the company currently gets less than $15 per netbook for XP, compared to from $50 to $60 for Vista on desktops or laptops. So Microsoft wants to make up that revenue in some way -- and the Starter edition is the company's answer.
The problem is, the answer is the wrong one.
When netbooks were first released, Linux was quite popular on them, accounting for an estimated 30 percent of all netbook sales. One problem was that Vista didn't run on netbooks. Another was that Microsoft simply wasn't paying attention to netbooks.
Seth Weintraub: Windows 7 application limit opens door for Android
Then Microsoft got religion, and targeted netbooks. A recent study by the analyst firm NPD Group found that Microsoft now has more than 90 percent of all netbooks sales.
I expected that number to go even higher when Windows 7 is released, because Windows 7 will be lean enough to run on netbooks. Now, though, I'm not so sure.
Why opt for a crippled version of Windows 7 on a netbook, when you get can Linux on it that runs as many applications as you want? There's no reason -- and so Microsoft's move opens up the door for Linux. Google is said to be developing a version of its Linux-based Android operating system for netbooks, and crippling Windows 7 is the best gift Microsoft could have ever given Google.
Also, why opt for a crippled version of Windows 7 on a netbook when Windows XP will run as many applications as you want? As I've written before, Windows XP is the operating system that refuses to die. Microsoft's move only make sure that it will live longer. The company will be forced to keep selling XP on netbooks even after Windows 7's release, because otherwise Linux will take an even larger bite out of the netbook market.
That means fewer people making the move to Windows 7 --- the exact opposite of what Microsoft wants.
All in all, crippling Windows 7 on netbooks is one of the worst moves that Microsoft could possibly make. I hope they back off on this one.
Upate: Two of Microsoft's biggest partners, Acer and Intel, have said they're worried that netbooks with a cripped version of Windows 7 may not sell.