Windows XP on low-cost laptops: Microsoft sets its terms

Last month, Microsoft revealed plans to keep selling Windows XP Home Edition to low-cost laptop makers until at least 2010. IDG News now has the skinny on exactly which machines will qualify—and which ones will have to contend with either Linux or Windows Vista.

Quoting "confidential" Microsoft documents, IDG says PC makers will need to limit laptops to 10.2" displays without touch-screen features, 1GHz processors, 1GB memory capacities, and 80GB storage capacities. The 1GHz CPU speed limitation might seem draconian, but IDG says Microsoft will make an "allowance" for some processors, particularly VIA's C7-M and Intel's Atom, which can hit clock speeds of 1.6GHz+ but aren't as fast clock-for-clock as conventional laptop CPUs.

In other words, the limitations should cover most low-cost PCs shipped this year and perhaps the next, although they may be a little tight in 2010. That's just the point, though: IDG says Microsoft doesn't want low-cost PCs to eat into the market for Windows Vista machines. At the same time, Microsoft expects 10 million to 13 million low-cost laptops to sell this year, and it doesn't want Linux to take over that entire market. Reportedly, low-cost laptop makers will only need to cough up $32 for a copy of Windows XP Home Edition. If they sell their laptops in developing markets, that price tag will dip to $16-26.

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