Report: Microsoft readies new maximum specs for Windows 7 netbooks

Report: Microsoft readies new maximum specs for Windows 7 netbooks

Summary: Microsoft is readying a set of maximum specs for Windows 7 netbooks --or, as Microsoft prefers to call them, "small notebooks" -- that will likely dictate which PCs will qualify for lower per-copy Windows 7 pricing.

Microsoft is readying a set of maximum specs for Windows 7 netbooks --or, as Microsoft prefers to call them, "small notebooks" -- that will likely dictate which PCs will qualify for lower per-copy Windows 7 pricing. The alleged Windows 7 netbook specs were published earlier this month on the TechARP technology enthusiast site. Microsoft established a similar set of specs for XP and Vista netbooks, a category the company had been referring to as ultra-low-cost PCs (ULPCs). The ones it is developing for Windows 7 are designed for netbooks that have smaller screens and single-core 2 GHz CPUs, TechARP said. (Just to be clear: Microsoft's Windows unit isn't confirming any of the information that TechARP is providing and updating regularly about Microsoft's alleged plans for Windows 7. But a lot of what the site is getting surely seems plausible -- and if I were guessing -- is coming directly from OEMs.) A quick refresher as to what Microsoft has said to date about Windows 7 on netbooks: * All Windows 7 SKUs will be able to run on netbooks. But the ones Microsoft expects most netbook makers to preload are Windows 7 Starter Edition and Windows 7 Home Premium. * Starter Edition will limit users to running three concurrent applications. Windows 7 Starter Edition, unlike XP Starter Edition, will be for sale to users in both developing and developed nations. * Microsoft has not shared publicly what it intends to charge PC makers per copy of Windows 7. But it is said to be charging them about $15 a copy for XP when they are preloading it on netbooks -- a price significantly lower than it charges PC makers per copy of XP or Vista preloaded on full-fledged laptops and PCs. When Microsoft unveiled its Windows 7 SKU line-up back in February, I asked how the company intended to determine pricing for Windows 7 running on netbooks vs. laptops/desktops. Would Microsoft charge PC makers less per copy for Home Premium than it charges to run the exact same Home Premium SKU on a full-fledged notebook or desktop system? Would Microsoft attempt to establish itself as the judge of what is a “netbook”? Microsoft officials had nothing more to say about my questions. But the new maximum spec list -- if it pans out -- may indicate how the Softies are planning to address these thorny questions. TechARP claims Microsoft is planning to focus its strategy around SKUs tailored for the netbook market. The site says that Microsoft will be offering netbook makers plain-old Windows 7 Starter; Windows 7 Starter for Small Notebook PC; and Windows 7 Home Basic For Small Notebook PCs (China only). (Microsoft officials said in February that Windows 7 Home Basic will be in developing nations only.) For Windows 7, "Microsoft has made several critical changes to the maximum hardware specifications allowed for Windows 7 Start / Home Basic editions, as well as the Windows XP and Windows Vista Small Notebook PC program," TechARP said. Among these changes are:

  • "(A) greatly simplified and universal CPU criterion designed for easy understanding and management
  • Removal of the graphics and touch limitations
  • Limiting screen size to a maximum of 10.2 inches (measured diagonally) as the defining boundary between a Small Notebook PC and a full-featured laptop"
Specifically, according to TechARP's information, Microsoft's maximum specs for machines it will consider to be netbooks/"small notebooks" will change in the following ways: Screen size: With XP and Vista, maximum allowable screen size was 12.1 inches; with Windows 7, it will be 10.2 inches Storage: Maximum limits for XP and Vista: 160 GB HDD or 32 GB SDD; with Windows 7, it will be 250 GB HDD or 64 GB SDD Graphics: With XP and Vista, netbooks/small notebooks was "less than or equal to DX9; with Windows 7, there will be no limitation CPUs: With XP and Vista, netbooks/small notebooks had to have "single core processors that do not exceed 1 GHz frequency, or Intel Atom (N270, N280, 230, Z500, Z510, Z515, Z520, Z530, Z540, Z550);  Intel Celeron 220; AMD (MV-40, 1050P, TF-20, Geode LX, Athlon 2650e, Sempron 210U); VIA (C7-M ULV, Nano U1700, U2250, U2300, U2400 or U2500). With Windows 7, the maximum will be "single core processors that do not exceed 2 GHz frequency, and have a CPU thermal design power that is less than or equal to 15 W, not including the graphics and chipset." Recent reports claim netbook demand is down -- which is a mixed blessing for PC makers and Microsoft, given that netbooks have been the only bright spot in an otherwise declining PC market. Whether that trend will continue through the Windows 7 launch this year will be interesting to see. I know I'm still planning on making my first Windows 7 machine a netbook.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Windows 7 = crippled. Just use Linux

    Why buy an OS with all of these artificial restraints? This is what closed source gets you, a compromised product.
    • Windows 7 is not crippled

      Netbooks are perfectly capable of running higher versions of 7, just what I suspect most people will go for.

      Anyway, read this:
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • This really could be the beginning of the end for MS.

        The whole point about netbooks were their cheap price.

        If the copy of Windows 7 is going to be half the cost of the netbook rather than a a sixth just because the CPU is dual core or runs at 2.1Ghz then that isn't going to go down too well with the consumer.

        Might as well buy a notebook. But what if that's not what you want? And unless there is scope for changes in the future (you know, technology kind of improves with time), then mark my words in 1 year after release most netbooks will be back on Linux.

        Or Apple will have a field day with this news.

        Why buy a 2.1Ghz dual core Windows 7 netbook when you can get a iNetbook for $50 more? Intel won't be happy about this artificial CPU limit, they will strike a deal with Apple.

        Bad, bad move by MS. It isn't in the position to dictate to the market like it was. This really could be the beginning of the end for MS.

        • No it won't...

          ...people will just pay more for W7HP. If you really think people are buying boutique products like netbooks based only on price then you're being horribly naive.

          No-one cares about Linux. That's been made abundantly clear by the consumers.

          As for Apple? Not their market as the profit margins are too small.
          Sleeper Service
          • Naive?

            You claim people will just pay more for W7HP. Just like that. Well that depends on just how much more they have to pay for their netbook just because it is 0.1Ghz over MS's limit doesn't it. And if it high enough, people may go elsewhere.

            As for me being naive about people buying things on price alone, are you being serious? Price is always a majore factor in ANY purchase. And I imagine it is THE very reason people are buying netbooks.

            2Ghz Netbook Win7 = $300

            2.1Ghz Netbook Win7 = $400

            So MS adds an extra $80 just because the CPU is over the 2Gz limit. Either you're an idiot or work for MS if you think people are going to pay the extra $100.

        • Apple

          Doesn't have a netbook.
          The one and only, Cylon Centurion
          • Neither does

            Microsoft. Nor do they have a win7 netbook.

            What's your point?
        • I'll take that bet...

          and your mother's house you live in...
          • Oh dear.

            My mother is dead dear boy. Has been for years.
        • Get ready for inflation that is what they are considering with these quotes

          Man you people are on here too... Here you go with the LIES... What are you even talking about did you even read the article??

          Hey earth to whoever you are did you not just hear that youre president is building our government and economy on borrowed money!!!

          Also by the time the majority of that money hits the economy he will have set in motion a mass inflation in the price of consumer goods!!! By this time nest year you will be lucky to get a computer for under 500 bucks on sale!!!

          Thes numbers take that all into account!!!

          Now I ask you if you have the courage or brainpower to answer me these few questions...

          Since when does a netbook have 2.16 Ghz dual core processor????

          What the hell is an iNetbook?

          If you are implying that you could get an Apple laptop with a small screen for only 50 bucks more than a netbook please tell me where????

          Keep in mind last time I cheked the smallest laptop Apple made was well over 1000 yes one thousand dollars!!! A Windows netbook over 500 is rare BTW!!!

      • Win 7 is faster than most Linux distros!!

        I agree and wonder where these people get the ideas they have....

        Sometimes I wonder if they have even used Windows post 9.x !!!!!!

        Grantite Vista was problematic at first, but when you think of it with all the secutiy that was added it was windows actually becoming like Linus minus the passwords...

        Cancel or Allow...


        In the current RC form Windows 7 is elegant, easy to use, secure and lightweight unlike Vista!!!

        Windows 7 is running fine on my 4 yr old bargain notebook that came equiped with a sempron 3300 with 128K of Cache and ATI RADEON XPRESS 200 graphics!!!!

        A modern netbook has 2x the horspower of this old Compaq !!!
    • Agree

      I have Debian lenny with KDE 4.2.2 running perfectly on my AAO.

      It's always amazed me that people would pay good money to be limited and otherwise abused. I guess ignorance has a considerable price here.
      Tim Patterson
      • You don't know nuttin

        pffft. What does kidz know?
        • Bedtime boys.

      • I think they may know more than you "ass"ume...nt

        • Bedtime boys.

          Sweet dreams.
    • Wrong!

      Open source also gives you whole bunch of compilation errors when you install some packages. You expect normal users use source code distribution in case that no package is available?
      • What source code?

        When has any netbook user of any mainstream distro ever had to compile anything?

        Name a single mainstream program that isn't prepackaged by the major distros.
      • WHAT????

        when was the last time you ever tried installing something on linux???

        you dont even see the source code of anything you install nowadays. The idea of being open just means that if anyone wants to inspect what the hell I am running it is freely available whereby you can put your mind at ease.

        It is the stupidity of some people who have read about linux in 2001 and keep spreading wrong things about a beautiful OS.

        Here is a testimonial from a first time user who installed ubuntu 8.04. This person has only used windows and mac in the past and is not really technology savvy either.

        "I decided to install Linux. In my (to-date) brief experience, I have found it very easy to use (e.g. just add and remove programs at the click of a button), some very interesting looking open source software and lots of online help from the crowd.
        TC says: Give it a whirl."

        So follow the lead and try the OS for a change!
      • Pay no attention to Gladiatorcn...

        Installing software in Linux is in most cases easier than it is to Windows.

        Everything is managed in a central repository; you can just pick the software that you want within a program on your computer, and Linux will download and install the software automatically.

        With Linux's centralized software management, there is no searching around for software on the Internet, no worrying about whether what you're installing is a trojan (everything comes from one reliable source), and less compatibility headaches. Usually, you don't even have to restart to use the new software.

        This process is handled with just a few clicks from the user.

        Installing software in Linux really is as simple as it sounds once you get used to it.

        Also, updates are handled from the same central location; there is no waiting on 20 different pieces on software that each decide to update at a different time. With Linux, you can decide when you want to update instead of getting interrupted in the middle of work or a full-screen game.

        Some people seem to like to make scary claims about Linux and "compilation errors". While Linux has its faults, software installation and updates are about as easy as they could possibly be.