Is Microsoft really planning a Windows 7 netbook SKU?

March 11, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Windows 7There has been much talk from Microsoft of Windows 7 “running beautifully on netbooks”. However, what has not been made clear is whether Microsoft is planning to release a netbook-specific SKU or whether it plans to focus OEMs/ODMs to the Windows 7 Starter package and then upsell to more expensive W7 versions. However , recent comments made by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during an analyst meeting last Tuesday indicate that it is still thinking about a specific netbook edition.

When he was asked about this, Ballmer was vague about the subject, “I think we have an opportunity when we ship Windows 7, which will fit on a netbook, we have an opportunity to rethink the product line-up for netbooks, product line-up and price line-up, and we get a chance to engage in that dialogue, both with the OEM, and potentially with the OEM and the end user.

I think it’s important for us, we have some time before we are actually in market, and as we have more to say you’ll hear it, but we have a real opportunity given that Windows 7 fits on netbooks, to think about having a special netbook edition, but maybe somebody will want home, or maybe somebody will even, for example, want the business edition of Windows 7 on a netbook. I want to make sure we facilitate letting the customer, OEM or end customer, trade up if they want to trade up,” Ballmer said.

Ballmer also said that it intends to deliver a version of Windows 7 at the same price of Windows XP today, so that netbook owners can trade up. Exactly what version that will be remains unknown. There’s no upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7, so how exactly this trading up would work remains unknown as well.

If Microsoft is indeed planning a netbook-specific Windows 7-based SKU, why has it not announced its existence along with all the other build outs? Microsoft’s vagueness is likely to stem from the fact that it does not want to give consumers the wrong idea by insinuating that “normal” Windows doesn’t work on a netbook, but a “special” version does. This is a problem that Windows XP does not face. Hopefully Microsoft will clear the mist on this soon.


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