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Microsoft's netbook restrictions detailed

by on03 January 2009


Thou shall not...

Yesteday, we
talked about HP's efforts to loosen some of Intel's Atom restrictions and its plans to offer bigger netbooks in late Q2.

We also mentioned some of Microsoft's restrictions, and today one of Mike's hacks over at the IT Examiner received and posted a detailed list of netbook restrictions imposed by Volish lawyers. The spec applies to 20 top OEMs and it went into effect in September last year.

So, Microsoft's five commandments for XP are as follows:

1. Thou shall not build in flash drives larger than 16GB or hard drives larger than 160GB
2. Neither shall you use graphics which support anything over DirectX 9.0
3. Thou shall not install more than 1GB of memory
4. You shall use a single-core CPU, clocked under 1GHz, unless it's one of the following: 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.
5. Thou shall use screens up to 10.2-inches on netbooks, 14.1-inches on large screen netbooks, and any size you may wish on nettops.

With Vista Basic, the only restriction is not to use over 24GB of flash built-in flash storage.
As you can see, Vista is excluded from the most ridiculous restrictions, but forcing vendors to use obsolete DirectX 9.0 graphics and a single gigabyte of RAM on XP machines means that these very same machines won't be able to cut it when it comes to Vista. Increasing the amount of memory isn't a problem, but changing the IGP on a netbook design is a rather nasty prospect.

Although Microsoft doesn't mind screens over 10.2-inches, Intel does, thus hampering further development of larger, more practical netbooks and Atom-based notebooks. The storage limitations aren't too bad. After all, netbooks weren't meant to be your only PC, and cheap external storage (2.5-inch hard drives or flash drives) is widely available.

We don't see Microsoft revising XP restrictions, as XP has already received several stays of execution and is scheduled to die in a few months. Vendors will most likely have to focus their efforts on Vista-based netbooks, while the cheapest ones will stick to Linux. This might place Microsoft in an awkward situation in a few months. XP netbooks currently sell for about just €20 more than the Linux ones, due to the licensing deal.

With XP gone for good, vendors will have no choice but to migrate to Vista, adding extra hardware and storage to cope with the overbloated OS, thus driving prices up once again and widening the price gap between Windows and Linux-based netbooks.

More here.

Also read:

HP wants Intel to loosen Atom restrictions

Last modified on 05 January 2009
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