Monday, October 19, 2009
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 09:03 AM
There's been copious amounts of speculation on this subject, but it looks like we finally have the answer: it seems most netbooks are going to ship with Windows 7 Starter, not Windows 7 Basic, and the impact (at least in Canada) is a $50 price point jump. Case in point: Future Shop, one of the big-box electronics chains in Canada (owned by Best Buy), is touting their Windows 7 line-up of netbooks. Among them are products from HP, Samsung, and Toshiba. Looking at the HP Mini 110, and comparing them spec to spec, the Windows XP version sells for $299 CAD and it's identical in every way to the Windows 7 version, which will sell for $349 CAD. We've discussed this on the site before, and the hope was that even if the overall price of netbooks went up a bit, there'd be more than just the OS update in there. Perhaps a bump from 1 GB up to 2 GB, or a dual-core Atom processor? No such luck.
So the question becomes, is the license for Windows 7 Starter really $50 CAD more than Windows XP? Highly doubtful - a $50 license fee is in the realm of what HP would pay for Windows 7 Home Premium desktop computer, and we know that Windows 7 Starter isn't going to be the cheap. So is this a case of the netbooks OEMs looking for ways to bump up the price of netbooks to eek out some more profit? It's certainly possible - netbooks have razor-thin margins, and I'm sure HP, Dell, and others would do anything they could to make them more profitable...and a new operating system changes the value proposition for consumers, giving them an opportunity to do so.
So what does it mean for users to have Windows 7 Starter edition? This Wikipedia article outlines the basics, and for the most part the missing features aren't a bit deal to the average consumer, save one: you can't change the desktop wallpaper. This is one of the the most basic functions of Windows, and it's one that consumers have been using to make their computer feel more personalized for well over a decade now...and Microsoft takes that away? It seems needlessly stupid of them to remove that feature, especially given the $50 price jump we're seeing.
Mark my words, that will be the one thing that average consumers will notice, and complain about. There are a bunch of photo viewer/organizer applications out there that have "Set picture as desktop wallpaper" options, and they're all going to fail on these new netbooks. Never before in the history of Windows has this functionality been removed on a product that's designed to go out to millions and millions of consumers that were previously used to that feature. I imagine that the companies selling customized netbooks online - like Dell - are going to see a lot of upgrades to Windows Home Premium, further enhancing their profits and making netbooks more expensive for consumers.