Microsoft and Intel have apparently been conspiring to slice down manufacturer's flexibility in netbook specifications, at least if they want to take advantage of subsidized Windows 7 OS prices. According to a leaked strategy document, if OEMs wish to load Windows 7 Start/Home Basic, they can have a display no larger than 10.2-inches (down from 11.6-inches). There are also new processor rules, intended to make the differentiation between a netbook and a standard notebook more straightforward.
For instance, while currently Windows XP/Vista licensing allows a variety of processors, generally anything single-core and under 1GHz, unless it's one of several Intel Atom, Celeron ULV, AMD ULV or VIA ULV chips, the new rules say anything 2GHz or under with a TDP of 15W or below will be acceptable. Permitted RAM remains at 1GB, while storage increases to up to 250GB in a standard hard-drive or 64GB of SSD.
There's now no limit on graphics chipset (clearing the way for NVIDIA's Ion) and touch panels are now permitted. Of course, manufacturers are free to load non-starter editions of Windows 7 onto their netbooks, and thus bypass these limitations; the question will be whether buyers are willing to pay more to offset the licensing fees.