People with too much time on their hands have wondered what a netbook is, and now Microsoft has decided that the world should be told in no uncertain terms - S.M.A.L.L.

As far as Steve Ballmer is concerned, for Windows 7 onwards, it's going to be 10.2 inches or under, which means that the interesting range of 12 inch netbooks we have seen being made in recent times are out of the window. Check out the excellent Samsung NC12 Samsung NC12 (which runs XP) we reviewed some weeks ago to see what one of the latter offers.

"Our license tells you what a netbook is,"Ballmer was quoted as telling Wall Street analysts, the only people who really seem to matter to him in advance of Windows 7's release because they affect investor sentiment.

He's referring to Windows 7's Starter Edition, the cheapest way to get the new OS, and the restrictions that will be placed on netbook vendors hoping to use the OS.

In a nutshell, anyone making one to use Windows 7 SE had better avoid larger screens and keyboards, including ones with 12 inch or above screens. The reason is simply commercial logic, Microsoft style. If too many customers start buying medium-sized netbooks running Starter Edition they will not, therefore, be buying larger laptops running more expensive versions of Windows 7 and that could hurt Microsoft's bottom line.

The logic is probably flawed, but why risk it? Windows 7 is make or break for the desktop monopoly.
That leaves the fan of the near full-sized keyboard and screens that you can actually see icons on left to use XP, as on current larger netbooks. Nothing wrong with that except that it will only be supported for another 12 months beyond Windows 7's launch.

The market still has Linux and perhaps Google's new Chrome OS will yet ride to the rescue. But Microsoft's attempt to dictate to the consumer by bullying vendors tells us that the market is crying out for a company that tries to make its money with consumers onboard not by dictating to them.