If you thought that Microsoft learned all its lessons with Vista, you'll soon be disappointed. Despite the fact that the Windows 7 beta is getting mostly positive reviews, revelations that Microsoft plans to release six different flavors of Windows 7 left many in the tech world stupefied and wondering why.
Microsoft confirmed the multiversion release of Windows 7 to various sources including Gizomodo and Paul Thurrott of Windows Supersite. However, Microsoft has not released any official statement to the public regarding this decision.
Many have been critical of Microsoft's decision to release multiple versions of Windows Vista. The move created consumer confusion as to what version might be best to buy. It also created compatibility issues with both software and hardware when people wanted to upgrade from XP to Vista. Lastly, many saw the strategy of multiversions of Vista as a self-serving way for Microsoft to charge vastly different prices for different versions of Vista with little benefit to end users.
We don't know about pricing or availability (although some speculate Windows 7 will be available early next year), but here is a breakdown of what we do know and the differences between the versions of Windows 7.
First off, all users of XP and Vista will be able to upgrade their OS license to Windows 7. The catch is the upgrades will have to be a clean installation of Windows 7, meaning you'll have to reinstall programs and back up and replace data.
Windows 7 Starter Edition
The Starter Edition (SE) is mainly aimed at emerging market and netbook users. With SE, customers will be able to run only three applications at the same time but will benefit from user interface (UI) improvements such as the new taskbar and JumpLists. Also, users will be able to join a Home Group (to share media files over a local network).
Windows 7 Home Basic
The Home Basic Edition (HB) is basically the equivalent of Vista's Media Center edition and will allow the use of unlimited applications at the same time, while bringing further UI enhancements such as live thumbnail previews and 'enhanced visual experience.' Additionally, HB enables advanced networking support like Internet connection sharing (including over wireless) and provides the Mobility Center (power management for laptops).
Windows 7 Home Premium
The Home Premium (HP) version will bring all the visual goodies of Windows 7 like the Aero Glass UI and the advanced window navigation. Besides touchscreen implementations (handwriting recognition, multitouch), the Home Premium edition also brings improved media format support and enhancements to Windows Media Center and media streaming.
Windows 7 Professional
The Professional edition of Windows 7 brings along more security and networking features like the Encrypting File System, advanced network backup and joining managed networks with Domain Join. Also, the Pro version supports location-aware printing.
Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 7 Ultimate
Whether you're a home user or a business, the Enterprise and Ultimate editions (probably differentiated by price in the end) will bring a similar set of advanced features like bitLocker data protection for internal and external drives, DirectAccess for corporate networking based on Windows Server 2008 R2, and will lock unauthorized software from running with AppLocker.
My guess is that Microsoft will market aggressively the Home Premium and Professional editions for home users while netbook users should aim for the Starter version. Microsoft also recommends business users to use either the Professional or the Enterprise edition.
How do you feel about Microsoft's version breakdown of Windows 7? Will it be better or worse than Windows Vista? Please let me know in the comments.