With four different retail editions and arbitrarily segregated feature sets, Windows Vista certainly didn't make shopping easy for consumers. Will Windows 7 make things any easier? Yes, says Paul Thurrott, who's heard about Microsoft's plans for Windows 7 editions straight from the horse's mouth.
At first glance, Thurrott's list of Windows 7 editions looks just as daunting. However, he says Microsoft will limit the number of retail editions, and feature sets will follow a "Russian doll" structure whereby pricier editions will automatically include the features of their cheaper counterparts. (By contrast, Vista Business lacked Vista Home Premium's media-center functionality despite the higher price tag.)
Here's the list of Windows 7 editions and their major features, based on Thurrott's descriptions:
- Windows 7 Starter - stripped down version for new PCs only; can only run three applications at once.
- Windows 7 Home Premium - includes Aero Glass, Mobility Center, Media Center, multi-touch support, DVD authoring.
- Windows 7 Professional - includes all of the Home Premium features plus Remote Desktop hosting, domain joining, file-system encryption (EFS), location-aware printing, offline folders, and a presentation mode.
- Windows 7 Enterprise - for volume-license customers only. Includes all of the Professional features plus DirectAccess, BranchCache, AppLocker, and BitLocker.
- Windows 7 Ultimate - includes all of the Enterprise features, minus the volume-licensing requirement.
According to Thurrott, Microsoft doesn't plan to put many marketing dollars behind Windows 7 Ultimate, and the edition will be available "via occasional promotions and offers from both PC makers and retailers." That leaves only two retail editions folks should really worry about: Home Premium and Professional.
Having only two major retail editions essentially brings Microsoft back to the Windows XP days, although to be fair, the company offered media center functionality only in a third XP edition. Unless Windows 7 Ultimate ends up having a strong presence, Windows 7's retail edition split seems like it could be even more straightforward than XP's.