Windows 7 to Usher in $200 Netbooks

Microsoft said early on that Windows 7 Starter Edition would be targeted at low-cost PCs and netbooks. How does $200 sound?

Microsoft held a meeting with OEMs to discuss Windows 7 (what else?) and the topic of netbooks naturally came up. While we know that there will be six different SKUs of the OS, we don’t yet know at which price point each will sit.

What we do know, however, is that Windows 7 Starter Edition will be the cheapest one, which will be no doubt the option for OEMs looking to build the cheapest netbook running a Windows. Microsoft thinks that netbooks at the entry level could hit a new low price point -- something netbooks have been slowly moving further away from with ballooning feature sets.

“We have a couple of the OEMs continuing down a path to be very aggressive on price. It puts the pressure on everyone. We're anticipating opening price points to reach about $200 at least in the US market this holiday season,” said Mark Croft, the director of OEM Worldwide Marketing, according to a TechRadar story.

Interestingly, Croft added that Nvidia Ion machines could come in at just $50 more, making a $250 GeForce-equipped netbook sound very attractive.

Microsoft cautions, however, that pricing and specifications will like vary greatly. “There isn't a standard, uniform view of the world. Each OEM has nuances on this depending on what they think their brand value is, each one has a slightly different take on what they're trying to do in terms of market share or margin,” Croft added. “Some of them are trying to make $10 on this device or $20, and some are just trying to sell a unit and break even.”

While Windows 7 Starter Edition could become the usual flavor for the el cheapo netbook, Microsoft is pushing for the Home Premium edition to be the standard.

“We are clearly going to market to customers that Home Premium is the default,” said Croft. “We've made our case to the OEMs; we've shared some analyst data with them about customer preferences.”

Microsoft has said before that it would like for users of lesser versions of Windows 7 to upgrade. Artificial limits on Windows 7 Starter Edition, such as limiting the user to have only three programs running at once would quickly make a case for an upgrade. Encouraging OEMs to start with Home Premium would not only fulfill Microsoft’s business desire, but also give the end user a better experience. Sadly, that might not happen with a $200 netbook.

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