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Microsoft gets involved with Netbook specs


Puts in its own restrictions

We've found out some very interesting information with regard to why the Netbooks are so severely crippled, despite the fact that they don't have to be; well, at least the models that are running Windows XP. It turns out that Microsoft has put in place a whole range of restrictions for its partners if they want to get the best pricing for the OS, some of which are rather ridiculous.

Remember that Eee PC 1000 SSD restriction on the Windows XP machine, a Microsoft limitation? Or what about the 1GB memory limitation, again Microsoft's doing? There are other limitations as well, such as the fact that the graphics can't be better than DX9.0.

So it seems that when we all thought that the manufacturers were trying to pocket some extra money, well, that's exactly what they were trying to do, but not by selling cheaper hardware, as instead they followed the Microsoft restrictions to get a better price for the operating system.

The drive restrictions went up from using an 80GB HDD to a 160GB HDD late last month in an update from Microsoft, and that's why you're seeing more recent models sporting larger hard drives. However, SSDs are still limited at 16GB for Windows XP, but for those vendors going with Vista basic, the SSD can be up to 24GB in size. We're not sure why Microsoft has put in a 1GB of RAM restriction, as this is just plain silly.

Microsoft has also put together a list of rather strange CPU limitations: "The system has a maximum of 1.0GHz single core CPU; or Intel Atom (N270, N230, Z500, Z510, Z520, Z530, Z540); or Intel Celeron 220; or AMD Geode LX, Athlon (2650e, Sempron 210U); or VIA C7-M (ULV), Neon (U2300, U2400, and U2500) CPU." Don't ask us how they came up with this list, although we presume Neon is meant to be Nano, which means that someone at Microsoft should spend a little more time checking product names.

The display limitation is also set to 10.2-inches, although rather interestingly, there seems to be a category for large screen versions with displays of up to 14.1-inches, which might indicate that we'll see larger Netbooks in the future.

So, what about the pricing for the OS? Well, that depends in which part of the world the system will be sold, In mature markets, i.e., the U.S. and Europe, among other places, Windows XP is worth US$32 per system; while in emerging markets it's only worth $26. However, in Russia and China Windows XP is going for a mere $19. Windows Vista Home basic is going for $47 in mature markets and $36 in Russia, with no pricing mentioned in the other regions. Then there's, of course, volume discounts that can knock off another dollar or two on the price.

These prices only apply to Netbooks, as the Nettops and large screen Netbooks will only come with Windows XP with a price of $47 for mature markets, $43 in emerging markets and $36 in China. It seems strange that you have to pay more for the same OS on these type of devices and we're not sure how Microsoft has done the calculation on this one, but we can only guess that they're expecting more units to be sold in the small screen Netbook category; and as such they can provide a lower per unit price.

So, despite the fact that VIA has allowed its partners free reign when it comes to the choice of hardware, it seems that the Microsoft limitations won't allow for many types of configurations if the manufacturers want to get a discount for the OS, which is a real shame. Let's just hope that Microsoft decides to loosen the specifications yet again to allow for at least 2GB of system memory in these type of systems.

Last modified on 25 July 2008
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