The Starter edition is at the opposite end of the “Windows 7 spectrum” compared to the Ultimate SKU. Microsoft itself is advertising this Windows 7 flavor as “simpler and easier to use.” And by all means, when it comes to Windows 7, consumers won’t be able to go much simpler than Starter. Designed as the absolute lowest-end Windows 7 product edition, Starter will be made available worldwide come October 22nd, 2009 and will feature an N edition for markets in the European Union.
This is how Microsoft describes the SKU: “Windows 7 Starter makes small notebook PCs easier to use because it puts less between you and what you want to do—less waiting, less clicking, less hassle connecting to networks. Windows 7 Starter combines the latest in reliability and responsiveness with the familiarity and compatibility of Windows.”
Yes, customers will get “less” of everything, particularly the full Windows 7 experience. But this might just be sufficient for hardware resource restrained netbooks that are not capable of running a more evolved edition of the operating system, starting with Home Premium.
Microsoft will only supply Windows 7 Starter to original equipment manufacturers. As such, because the price of Starter is tailored to each OEM, the Redmond company has made no pricing details public. But Starter is also up for grabs for the software giant’s developer and IT professional audiences. Subscribers of MSDN and TechNet can grab the low-end Windows 7 RTM edition and take it for a spin.
Unlike Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate, Windows 7 Starter will only be offered in the 32-bit flavor. Customers will also find that their netbook purchase options are limited, in case they will want Windows 7 starter. Microsoft has set in place a strict set of criteria for devices it insists to call small notebooks, and which can only sport a low-end processor such as Atom, no more than 1 GB of system memory (RAM), an HDD smaller than 256 GB or even smaller than 64 GB in the case of SSD storage, and featuring screens of less than 10.2 inches.
Windows 7 Starter installation
Since customers will only be able to purchase Windows 7 Starter already pre-installed on netbook devices, the installation process is yet another experience of Windows Vista’s successor they will miss. But in all fairness, deploying Windows 7 starter wont’ get your adrenaline level up in any way.
As it is the case with all Windows 7 SKUs, installing this particular edition of the operating system is a process simple enough so that even novice computer users can perform it without hassles. This is one aspect where simple is good. It’s only a matter of getting the machine to boot from the DVD drive, and nothing but a smooth ride from there on, with the wizard offering superb guidance. Microsoft simply managed to outdo itself by delivering an extremely speedy and seamless installation experience, far superior to previous Windows releases.
Windows 7 Starter features, components and capabilities
The good news is that Microsoft removed the previous limit of only three concurrent applications for the edition. The bad news? Pretty much everything else. The lowest-end SKU of Windows 7 is not just a label without merit. Users will get a stripped-down experience of the platform and will only be able to enjoy a small subset of the features, components, capabilities, bells and whistles of Windows 7 Home Premium, not to mention Ultimate. With Starter it’s not actually about what the edition offers customers, but what it lacks. And it lacks plenty.
First off, don’t expect any Ultimate specific features such as Virtual Hard Disk booting, Multilingual User Interface Packs, Subsystem for UNIX-based applications, DirectAccess, BranchCache Distributed Cache, BitLocker Drive Encryption, or AppLocker. At the same time, all of the features offered for business users have been stripped from the SKU, including Windows XP Mode, Windows Server domain, Remote Desktop Host, Location Aware Printing, Encrypting Filesystem. And to go further, Windows 7 Starter will not offer Home Premium’s Multi-Touch capabilities, Premium Games, or Windows Media Center. Users will find that they won’t even be able to access Windows Mobility Center, Desktop Windows Manager Windows Aero or even change the background image.
Starter guarantees only a basic Windows 7 experience. Sure, there will be the familiar Paint, Notepad, Calculator, Windows Fax and Scan, WordPad, Windows Firewall, Windows Search, Windows Backup, FreeCell, Hearts, Minesweeper, Purble Palace, Solitaire, and Spider Solitaire in concert with modern components such as XPS Viewer, User Account Control, Parental Controls, Windows ReadyDrive, Internet Explorer 8. But the edition lacks Windows Media Player, DVD authoring capabilities, the ability to create HomeGroups, IIS Server, Tablet features, etc.
Windows 7 Starter Desktop experience and GUI
Take multi-touch and the Windows Aero graphical user interface from Windows 7 and what you’re left with is a sort of Windows XP-esque experience at best. There is no Windows Aero and, as such, no Aero Peek, Superbar, Live Preview Thumbnails, Aero Shake, and a limited Aero Snap functionality.
And to make the Windows 7 Starter user experience handicap even more severe, users won’t even be able to personalize the look and feel of the operating system. They’re stuck with the color scheme, and even with the default wallpaper, which cannot under any circumstances be changed. Not even by replacing the img0 file in Windows-Web-Wallpaper. Just the Windows Basic UI. Absolutely no eye candy.
Of course that the big question is: “Is it worth it?” Fact is that it won’t be a matter of price. Windows 7 Starter will be pre-installed on cheap, low-end netbooks, which will remain just as cheap and as low end after the operating system is deployed. It is however a matter of user experience. And the bottom line is that consumers looking for Windows 7 won’t be able to find it in Starter.