Microsoft has already demonstrated how Windows 7 is lightweight enough to run on netbooks, but apparently the company has some limitations planned for the operating system that could hinder its adoption on these machines - or even worse, discourage manufacturers from selling well-equipped netbooks. According to TechARP, a site that has accurately revealed the company's moves in the past, Microsoft has set new maximum specifications for netbooks allowed to carry its entry-level (and hence cheapest) Windows 7 versions.

Specifically, these devices will need to feature screens no larger than 10.2 inches and run on a single-core processor no faster than 2GHz with a thermal design power that is less than or equal to 15 watts, not including the graphics and chipset. RAM is capped at 1GB like before, though storage is bumped to 250GB HDD or 64GB SSD and there's no limitation on graphics or touch capabilities.

It appears that as the line dividing netbooks and entry-level notebooks continues to blur, Microsoft is trying to make a clear distinction between the two based on screen size and performance. This is meant to protect their margins, seeing as how computer makers pay about $15 for an XP license for a netbook, but around $45 or more for a copy of Windows on a full-fledged computer.

There's something disconcerting about a software maker putting rules on hardware and trying to determine the direction of computing for years to come - even for a company as large and influential as Microsoft. Intel, for example, has already announced a new Atom processor designed to power the next generation of netbooks, which will integrate a memory controller and graphics core onto the processor itself. But with a 15 watt TDP limit, this next generation of netbooks will probably have to skip Windows 7 altogether.

Nothing has been made official yet, so Microsoft could just deny the alleged limitations or at least reconsider them as the hardware market moves forward. We'll have to wait and see.