One of the things I've been asked about with regards to Windows 7 Starter (see my pre-RC screenshot gallery) is that controversial three application limit. Is it really there? And is it really much of an issue?

It really is there. (See this shot in particular.)

But. It doesn't pop up that often. In fact, you will often have far more than three applications running before you see it. How is that?

One theory is that the built-in applications don't count, or perhaps its just Explorer-based apps. For example, you can launch SnagIt (third party app), WMP, and IE 8, and then launch Paint. No problem. The, launch WordPad. No complaints. Windows Anytime Upgrade.

But if you try to launch Windows Fax and Scan at this point ... bam.

Or Windows Live Photo Gallery. Blocked.

But launch Windows Explorer? No complaints. It starts right up.

OK, let's start over.

No apps are running. Launch, in order, SnagIt, Windows Live Photo Gallery, Windows Live Movie Maker, and then Windows Fax and Scan. No problem. That's four apps right there. Now launch IE 8 ... nope, it's blocked. But Windows Explorer will run. So will Windows Anytime Update. WMP? No.

Oh, and ESET NOD32 is running in the background the whole time.

Regardless of the exact mechanism used, it's pretty clear that most people who end up with Windows 7 Starter will be using a netbook anyway, and will likely never (or rarely) run into this limit. I'll keep testing to see if that is true. But it doesn't appear to be the huge issue tht people are making it out to be. And if Starter is cheap enough, I could see many being A-OK with this. Hey, anything is better than a stripped--down netbook version of Linux.