Netbook buyers beware: Windows 7 Starter is missing features

Survey finds most netbook users are unaware that Windows 7 Starter lacks some features that were standard in any version of Windows XP

Microsoft may have ditched the three application limit on the Windows 7 Starter Edition, but other restrictions on the netbook-only version of the operating system will be an unwelcome surprise for many netbook buyers, according to a survey published Monday.

Sixty-one percent of consumers do not know that Windows 7 Starter lacks some features standard in any version of Windows XP, such as support for multiple monitors, DVD playback -- even the ability to change the desktop image from the Microsoft logo, according to a survey by electronics shopping site, Retrevo.com.

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Other higher-end features Windows 7 Starter lacks include the advanced Aero interface, multi-touch, Windows Media Center, and XP Mode virtualization.

Informed of these missing features, 56 percent of the 1,100 randomly surveyed respondents (95 percent likely to fall within plus or minus 6.5 percent of the overall population results, says Retrevo) said that they would not be satisfied with Windows 7 Starter.

The problem, according to Retrevo, is that 23 out of 28 netbooks available today on Amazon.com are installed with Windows 7 Starter.

Microsoft may be counting on upselling users to to an $80 upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium. That is done via the Anytime Upgrade program on Microsoft's e-commerce Web site.

But it could also create ill will toward Microsoft, said Andrew Eisner, director of content for Retrevo.

"I think most users will feel angry with having to pay the $80 for an upgrade to get those features," he said.

It could also boost demand for Linux netbooks, which are expected to grab nearly one-third of the booming worldwide market this year for netbooks.

Microsoft declined to comment specifically on Retrevo's survey. Rather, it pointed to a statement it made back in February when it announced the six versions of Windows 7.

"Small notebook PCs can run any version of Windows 7. For OEMs that build lower-cost small notebook PCs, Windows 7 Starter will now be available in developed markets," it said. "For the most enhanced, full-functioning Windows experience on small notebook PCs, however, consumers will want to go with Windows 7 Home Premium, which lets you get the most out of your digital media and easily connect with other PCs."

This story, "Netbook buyers beware: Windows 7 Starter is missing features" was originally published by Computerworld .

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