Microsoft limits XP subnotebook specs

Reports suggest XP is being offered at a discounted rate to makers of low-cost subnotebooks, but only if they agree to limit the devices' hardware specs
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Microsoft has reportedly set strict limitations on the specifications of the cheap subnotebooks that can carry its Windows XP operating system.

According to IDG, Microsoft has launched a programme to give notebook makers discounted XP licences for such devices on condition that they agree to certain hardware limitations. Screen size must reportedly be limited to 10.2 inches, hard-drive capacity to 80GB, RAM to 1GB and processor speed to 1GHz, with exceptions made on the processor-speed limitation if certain Via or Intel chipsets are used. Touchscreens are also apparently forbidden.

Microsoft has refused to comment on the allegations, which are based on leaked documents, saying: "…we don't speak publicly about the details of our agreements with [manufacturers]."

The company is in the process of axing XP as it tries to promote its successor, Vista, instead. However, following the success of the Asus Eee PC — originally made available only with a Linux operating system — Microsoft decided to address this new market with XP, as Vista is too power-hungry for such low-specified laptops to use.

In April, Microsoft issued guidelines for manufacturers of cheap subnotebooks, recommending among other things "a minimum CPU speed of 500MHz and an optimal CPU speed of 1GHz".

"Choosing a CPU with a higher speed [than 1GHz] can further improve performance," the document states. This fits in with the reported exemption from the 1GHz limit for Via's C7-M processors, which go up to 1.6GHz, and Intel's Atom processors, which go up to 1.87GHz. These low-power chipsets, however, are expected to have a lower performance per gigahertz than more high-powered processors.

April's guidance for manufacturers also claims that low-cost subnotebooks have between 2GB and 8GB of flash storage, which seems out of synch with even the first XP-bearing example of such devices, the Asus Eee 900, a subnotebook with 12GB of flash storage.

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