I’ve been running Windows Vista Ultimate on my Acer Aspire One netbook (with 1.5GB of RAM, and a 30GB hard drive) for a while now, without any problems or performance issues. I have the full Aero Glass experience, and I didn’t need to do any performance tweaking or fiddling with services. I even made a few very crappy videos to show it all off. Apparently, Steven Sinofsky thinks Vista – and therefore, Windows 7 – can run just fine on a netbook too, and that’s why he demonstrated Windows 7 running on a netbook this morning during the Windows 7 keynote. In an interview with Ars he gave a little more details.
The fact that OEMs and users resort to Windows XP instead of Vista as their operating system of choice for netbooks (if they don’t choose Linux, that is) is seen as a major loss of face for Microsoft. Many consider this to be an issue of performance – netbooks simply can’t handle Vista in terms of processing power, video power, and RAM. Sinofsky disagrees with this, and presents a different culprit: the solid state drives were too small to house Vista.
The key thing that really drove the XP installation where the very first ones of these netbooks tried to have only flash drives. The reality is that, for better or worse, Vista’s disk footprint wasn’t going to fit on 8GB of flash. And the reason for that is not anything to do with performance, or bloat or anything. We do a lot of really customer focused things, like we have a gigabyte and a half of printer drivers. So you might not want them, but boy they’re really useful when you need them. […] What drove the XP desire was to fit on these very small, solid state footprints, because you can go to Tom’s Hardware and look up the spec marks for an Atom and compare to a low-end, 1GHz Celeron, and you’re not far off. So it’s not the processor.
And it’s not the RAM either, he continues, as he bought the model used to demonstrate Windows 7 with only 512MB of RAM, and upgraded it to 1.5GB for USD 19. Netbooks today are all DirectX 9 capable, so Aero Glass works just fine. Sinofsky also explained that Windows 7 will allow you to remove more components post-installation, so that you can save diskspace.
The fact that he was showing Windows 7 running on a netbook further disproves the claims that these netbooks (which we all love because they’re cute and cuddly) can’t run the most recent version of Windows. As long as you don’t use the default, cheap SSD, Windows Vista will do just fine. Small write operations are the real performance killers on these smaller, cheaper SSDs (the SSD can’t keep up with the OS), and this problem affects all operating systems that I’ve tried on my Aspire One before it underwent its HDD surgery. The default Linpus installation, Ubuntu, Windows XP – they all experienced major cases of SSD lag.
If you’re buying a netbook, avoid the SSD models. They might be cheaper, but you are going to get extremely frustrated with the SSD.