Microsoft could be facing a backlash against Windows 7, similar to that experienced with Vista, says a research analyst.

According to Michael Silver of Gartner, the issue revolves around the Starter Edition of Windows 7. "A lot of people could be disappointed with Starter if they weren't aware of its limitations," said Silver.

"There's a danger, I think, of people buying it, and then getting shocked when the fourth app won't run."

Microsoft revealed that it will launch Windows 7 in six editions: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. Windows 7 Starter will be offered worldwide - a change from the same-named edition for XP and Vista, which was sold only in developing markets, such as China and India - and will be available only to computer makers, not sold directly to consumers.

One Microsoft marketing executive pigeon-holed Starter as suitable for "OEMs that build lower-cost, small notebook PCs".

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The Windows 7 version of Starter will retain the restrictions of the Vista edition with the name, including a limit of three applications, or windows, active or open at the same time; no local network connectivity, although the operating system can connect to the internet; and a limit on screen resolution.

Unless Microsoft spells out those limitations, it risks incurring the wrath of consumers, including those in countries including the UK, where Starter will be available for the first time, said Silver. "Microsoft will have to be clear on what Starter does and what it does not do," he said.

Consumers claim that Microsoft dropped the communications ball the last time it rolled out an operating system. In a lawsuit begun in 2007, and granted class-action status almost a year ago, people who bought machines labelled as 'Vista Capable', in the months prior to Vista's release, accused Microsoft of profiting from the marketing campaign, in large part because many of the computers were able to run only Vista Home Basic, the lowest-priced edition.

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