Monday, December 7, 2009

Dual Core Netbook with Intel Atom, ARM, Windows 7 or Linux?

Windows 7 Starter can use dual core processors!

A lot of netbooks are now shipping with a Windows 7 Starter licence. This is the cheapest licence that an OEM (e.g. Acer, Samsung, etc) can get, in the range 15-20USD. This low price is key to enable Windowso low cost netboks, with a 250-350 USD price point.
Microsoft relaxed a little bit the hardware limits to run a Windows 7 Starter licence, now you can have a slightly larger hard disk (250GB instead of 160GB for XP Home), no limitation for touchscreen display and graphics and especially no limitations on the number of applications that can run in parallel.
Still tough limits are the 10,2-inch display, 1GB RAM and the fact that only single core processors (with up to 2GHz clock) are allowed.

It means that (cheap) dual core netbooks won't be mainstream with Windows 7. No chance.
My guess: Intel didn't oppose Microsoft decision, on the contrary! This strategy of course is good for Intel: if you want more performance you must buy more expensive platforms/processors (such us the CULV)!

Now some interesting factors comes into the game: Linux and ARM based processors.
ARM is pushing its cores in the netbook market and major netbook OEMs announced ARM based netbooks for mid January 2010. Qualcomm Snapdragon processor seems to be a popular choice for this first generation of ARM netbooks. ARM recently announced the availability of a dual core Cortex A9 MCore macro getting up to 2GHz, this is a really interesting news. Furthermore: all the ARM based processors include an integrated graphics unit.
Now the Linux factor: By definitions Linux distributions don't impose hardware limits and are very very cheap. Furthermore I think that now Linux gotta a chance to evolve to a really usable mainstream operating system, especially now after the huge efforts spent for Android and Chromium OS, both based on Linux kernel. Also very important is the fact that many different entities (OEMs, Intel, ARM, Canonical/Ubuntu and many more) are working at netbook friendly distributions.
My bottom line: after a first generation of ARM netbooks in January 2010, we'll probably see the first ARM dual core processors with Linux by mid-end 2010.

By purpose I didn't mention VIA and AMD: None of the two chipset manifacturers got products able to compete with Intel Atom and ARM for price and power consumption. Now with the integration of CPU and graphic processors in the upcoming Intel Pineview (Atom N450, Jan 2010 and Atom N470, March 2010) both VIA and AMD seems to have no chance at all.

PS: just to anticipate some comments. I know that there are a couple of netbooks with dual core Atom 330. However none of the big brands would dare to sell them with Windows, because of the Microsoft limitations.

Windows 7 Starter can use dual core processors!


Anonymous said...

I thought dualcore netbooks were coming soon, and that they would be using windows 7. as usual I looked at the web and tried and there is a site but without any products yet, I then tried a few more domains (like and .net) and they look simaler, I am sure someone is coming up with a market leading netbook, I just hoped it would be available before christmas, looks like I will have to look forward to this years January sales.

djsm said...

Dear Reader, I must admit that I made a mistake: Windows 7 Starter can be used with dual core processors!
Just look here: Intel Core Duo/Core 2 Duo and AMD Athlon X2 can be used with Windows 7 Starter!!!