updated 03:50 pm EDT, Fri May 22, 2009
MS Dropping 3-App Win 7
Microsoft will drop the controversial three-app limit on Windows 7 Starter Edition by the time it reaches shelves, an apparent scoop by long-time Microsoft observer Paul Thurrott indicates. Although the restriction is often softened in practice, the approach would let owners use more than three full, active apps at a time. Microsoft previously instituted the limit both to accommodate the slower systems that would likely be used as well as to push customers towards the more lucrative Vista Home Basic.
The changes should also let users of the simplest Windows 7 build also change their desktop background, a feature that also wasn't an option in the past.
Why Microsoft would loosen its restrictions isn't mentioned in the seeming leak but may have its roots in the company's desire to maintain the control it recently gained of the netbook market. It won the market largely by heavily discounting Windows XP, eliminating most of the Linux cost advantage. Imposing major limits on the software bears the risk of steering some netbook buyers towards Linux, where those limits don't exist. Newer Linux variants like Ubuntu Netbook Remix are tailored just for the ultra-small computers.
Windows 7 Starter will nonetheless maintain some important restrictions, such as the absence of interface elements that require Aero Glass (such as "peek") and touchscreen support; as such, it's likely to increase the cost of convertible tablet netbooks and others with built-in touch.
Microsoft hasn't commented on the accuracy of the report.