Windows 7 Starter editions odd "three app limit" behavior

Windows 7 Starter editions odd "three app limit" behavior

Summary: I've spoken before about how Windows 7 Starter edition's built-in artificial "three app limit" where users can only run a maximum of three applications at any one time could be a pain for those looking for cheap netbooks (and could mean that they end up paying for an upgrade). But now I've hand a chance to play with the Starter edition of Windows 7 I'm more confused than ever as to how it works.

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I've spoken before about how Windows 7 Starter edition's built-in artificial "three app limit" where users can only run a maximum of three applications at any one time could be a pain for those looking for cheap netbooks (and could mean that they end up paying for an upgrade). But now I've hand a chance to play with the Starter edition of Windows 7 I'm more confused than ever as to how it works.

OK, the idea seems to be that you can run up to a maximum of three apps at any one time (Microsoft has said that antivirus is excluded from this total). If you bust that limit you get a warning, either in the form of a dialog box, or a balloon in the notification area of the system tray.

 

OK, does that makes sense so far? Good. Problem is though, things aren't as clear cut as they seem. For example, take a look at this screenshot:

Here I've got six apps running:

  • Windows Explorer
  • WordPad
  • Internet Explorer
  • Paint
  • Windows Media Player
  • Windows Anytime Upgrade

Note: This restriction also allows you to fire up multiple instances of an application that's already running without counting that towards the three app limit ... or so my testing so far would suggest.

The help files that accompany Windows 7 offers the following insight:

Most of the following items are not considered programs:

- Folders, such as the Documents, Pictures, or Music folders - Windows Help and Support - Dialog boxes - Control Panel items (the items you see when you click the Start button, and then click Control Panel) - Windows services and the programs they start - Installation files

However this isn't entirely accurate either, because while I was installing VMware Tools on a virtual machine running Windows 7 Starter edition, I could only run two apps and the installation routine.

My fear is that unless this three app limit is flexible enough, people could end up being unable to run any apps because startup apps have grabbed all three slots.

Topics: Windows, Apps, Operating Systems, Software

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66 comments
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  • I'm still trying....

    .... to figure out why Starter Edition even exists. The fact that netbooks are perfectly capable of running any edition of Windows 7 make the SKU obsolete...
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • What are you babbling about?

    On the one hand you point out great flexibility (All kinds of OS-Bundled apps can run) and on the other hand you say "My fear is that unless this three app limit is flexible enough".

    3 apps can reasonably be taken to mean three distinct non-microsoft applications that run in the taskbar and not in the system tray.

    And as for your experiment with VMWare, that's pretty good especially for Linux users. Now if someone really needs a windows app they can run it inside Starter Edition, and run their real desktop inside a VM (or vice versa for that matter).

    All that aside, I think starter edition is a huge mistake on MS part. It doesn't require a degree in marketing to know people will see a sale on netbooks where some will have Starter Ed and some not, and once they take it home they will be furious to have to upgrade after realizing the limitations are not to their liking.

    MS should drop this, and just have Win7 Workstation and Win7 HomePreminum. That's it.

    croberts
    • I think you missed the point ...

      ... my worry is that the normal detritus that collects on a PC (or which is present on many OEM systems) will actively reduce the number fo apps the end user can run.
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • 3 Non MS apps maybe ?

    Do you get the picture now Adrian, it means you are nailed to MS software. Rubbish version of W7 and only a fool would have starter and only an even bigger fool would market such rubbish.
    Alan Smithie
    • Marketing is all about ...

      ... finding the greater fool ;)
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • and the world is full of them.... :o)

        nt
        deaf_e_kate
      • If you find a W7 starter buyer

        Send them my way as I've got some magic beans at a great discount for a limited period only. If they buy 50 I'll even throw in a square wheeled car that is powered by farmyard manure
        Alan Smithie
        • You're being disrespectful

          Don't forget ... many people in developing countries around the world would bite your arm off for a netbook running starter.
          de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
          • MS is being disrespectful

            If they cared they would offer a proper OS at a decent price that has not been knee capped
            Alan Smithie
  • trying to figure out why

    any OS would limit the amount of applications that can be run concurrently?

    why would anyone want to do that?

    thats what this blogger should have been asking, not which ones do and dont, tho the poster above made a nice comment about it being more than 3 NON ms apps.
    richvball44
    • Yes, OS X's limit of one app is even more puzzling

      And, the most puzzling thing of [b]all[/b] is that Apple apologists actually say that the OS X limit of 1 app is a [b]good[/b] thing!
      NonZealot
      • What are you babbling about?

        Or are you talking about the iPhone?
        wolf_z
        • These are netbook OSs

          Windows 7 Starter Edition is meant for netbooks and mobile OS X is Apple's netbook OS so yes, they are directly comparable.
          NonZealot
          • It's officially called iPhone OS

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone_OS
            Michael Kelly
          • Thanks, I forgot they renamed it.

            [i]This operating system did not have an official name until the release of the first beta version of the iPhone SDK on March 6, 2008. Before then, Apple marketing literature simply stated that the "iPhone uses OS X,"[/i]

            Thanks for the correction.
            NonZealot
          • Different Devices have different needs.

            Desktop PC != Netbook != SmartPhone

            Each piece of hardware has its own needs and should be approached
            differently. Desktop PC's, and laptops need a full OS because they are
            used as a full computer. Netbooks I am not opposed to having a
            minimized OS but a limit on the amount of apps you can run is the
            last thing I would choose to make the system more efficient. Apps are
            not created equal. You can run 5 small apps and have your netbook
            run fine but try and load up Photoshop and the thing will screech to a
            halt. This idea of applications as the arbiter of performance is
            ridiculous.

            As for Smartphones and Mobile OS' the performance factor is even
            more important because guess what these devices are first and
            foremost a phone! If the thing runs out of battery or runs poorly and
            can't operate its most basic phone functions then the device has
            failed. Apple chose to limit the apps running to one because it
            improves performance, saves battery, and it saves screen real estate.
            Furthermore Apple has the design wherewithal to make the one app
            limit completely transparent. You pop out of one app and into another,
            its no big deal.

            Having a bunch of apps running in the background just doesn't work
            on the Iphone and it makes sense why they designed it the way they
            did. Instead of throwing generalizations around about how all systems
            should allow you to run as many things as you want regardless of any
            other considerations is shortsighted and stupid. Apple cares about
            user experience and for the vast majority of users, including myself,
            the one app limit works beautifully.

            Check out the G1 and its terrible battery performance to see what
            happens on a mobile device when you let as many processes run as
            you want. Sure you can stop that, but again user experience is
            everything, users shouldn't be micro-managing their phones.

            Placing reasonable limits on the phone and the developers leads to
            good practice and a better experience.
            ChrisOPeterson
          • Then you admit that WM and Android are technically superior to iPhone OS

            [i]Having a bunch of apps running in the background just doesn't work on the Iphone and it makes sense why they designed it the way they
            did[/i]

            Works just fine on Android and WM!

            [i]Check out the G1 and its terrible battery performance to see what happens on a mobile device when you let as many processes run as
            you want.[/i]

            Can't speak for Android but I always have Office Communicator (IM app) connected and running in the background on my Windows Mobile phone and I get better battery life than my friend gets on his iPhone. I also have push email on with Exchange, push email on with Hotmail, and I'm polling GMail every 15 minutes. And my phone is smaller than the iPhone and it has twice the resolution. Maybe Apple should license some of the tech from HTC and MS so they too could offer you multitasking?
            NonZealot
          • I have to agree...

            ...the limit on the IPhone OS is just as ridiculous to say its supposed to be a power device.
            storm14k
          • Starter isn't 'meant' for netbooks

            Starter happens to be an option for netbooks but nowhere has Microsoft said they created the Starter edition *for* netbooks.

            Windows 7 Starter exists because certain vendors asked for a cut down, bare bones, version of Windows.

            All of this Windows 7 Starter = netbook OS is simply talking points for tech writers/blogers.
            mikefarinha
          • This is tenious

            "Windows 7 Starter exists because certain vendors asked for a cut down, bare bones, version of Windows."

            I don't see why the vendors get the blame for this, I thought that MS did this themselves to try and stem the Linux advance in places like Thailand.

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3554084.stm
            deaf_e_kate