Microsoft to offer limited XP to low-cost PC makers

Microsoft has unveiled a plan under which a somewhat crippled version of XP will be made available to the makers of low-cost PCs like the Eee PC and XO laptop. I’m not sure how I feel about this; at $25 it’s practically free, but the arbitrary hardware limitations Microsoft is imposing are, I think, kind of despicable:

the PC vendors that make ULPCs must limit screen sizes to 10.2 inches and hard drives to 80G bytes, and they cannot offer touch-screen PCs…the systems can have no more than 1G byte of RAM and a single-core processor running at no more than 1GHz.

Really? Single core? No touchscreens? Limiting the damn screen size? What Microsoft has just done is make sure that the most advanced UMPCs and low-cost computers won’t be running Windows. They’re trying to set up the low-cost PC as a separate market, and so it is, but they can’t simple draw a box around the hardware and say “fit this.” It’s not their job. And I really don’t think the Eee PC is going to cannibalize Vista sales, guys, so don’t worry about it.

I have no doubt this will grease the wheels and get more low-cost PCs to market and to the people who need them in developing countries, but at the same time it’s very much Microsoft playing 800-lb gorilla.