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Summary:

Microsoft has made public their “edition strategy” (my term, not theirs) for Windows 7. While there are still too many editions, at least they make a little more sense, and offer a better overall choice, than what Vista offered. Paul Thurrott has a write-up on the […]

windows-7-aurora-green-wallpaperMicrosoft has made public their “edition strategy” (my term, not theirs) for Windows 7. While there are still too many editions, at least they make a little more sense, and offer a better overall choice, than what Vista offered.

Paul Thurrott has a write-up on the editions at his Super Site for Windows. He was “critical” of Microsoft for their edition strategy for Vista, and is now a major cheerleader for 7’s set of editions. He believes Microsoft has really simplified things. Lost on Paul is that when a 2,000+ word article is required to outline the various editions, it’s not simple. There are too many versions, but I’ll get to that shortly.

The Windows 7 Edition Lineup

Here’s what will be available when Win7 is released:

  • Starter
  • Home Basic
  • Home Premium
  • Professional
  • Enterprise
  • Ultimate

Whew! Right now you’re thinking, “Six Editions! How can that possibly be simpler than Vista?”. Well, in many ways you’re right, but the editions are better than before, and for a lot of users it’s likely going to come down to just two choices. Let’s take a brief look at each.

Starter

This is probably the closest thing to a “Netbook Edition” Microsoft will go. They needed a flavor of Win7 in this market or it would be either XP forever or cede it to Linux. Neither was acceptable, of course, so they have an edition available globally for this purpose.

Its restrictions (e.g., “you can run only three applications at once”) virtually ensure no one will put it on anything other than a low-power netbook, which is just how MS wants it (i.e., you want more, you pay more). Further, it’s for new PCs only (no retail box), so MS isn’t too worried about non-netbook machines making do with this version.

Remember that Microsoft says Win7 has a small enough footprint for Home Premium (or others) to run fine on a netbook. However, I suspect the license price of those editions would keep many netbooks from being “affordable,” a major selling point of that market. Obviously, Microsoft would have no issue with this, but I think Starter is necessary so that truly low-cost netbooks could go with a “modern” Microsoft OS.

Home Basic

This is where Microsoft gets tricky, or greedy, or whatever you want to call it. You need to read towards the end of Paul’s article to even see this one, as he calls it “hidden.” Unlike Starter, this will not be available globally, but rather only in “emerging markets.” I think this is Microsoft-speak for “low-cost PC markets that would otherwise pirate another edition.”

Why not just use Starter for this purpose? I think Microsoft wants to wring every buck they can get out of this. While Home Basic will have to be cheap, I suspect it’ll grab a few more bucks than Starter, which MS targets for netbooks only.

Home Premium

This is one for new PCs and retail box sales. Unlike Starter and Basic, it comes with Aero and most of the other cool visuals/features everyone’s heard of. The features left out of this edition the average user is not likely to miss.

Professional

Best thing about this is the name. Yes, calling your software or hardware Pro is the oldest trick in the book, and is more for appealing to the ego of the user than anything else. But it sure beats the heck out of Business as a name.

It also makes sense from a feature standpoint, as Pro includes everything in Home Premium, and then adds, well, “pro” features like Domain Join, Remote Desktop host and Presentation Mode. Like Premium, this edition will be available in retail box and new PCs. Expect “high-end” PCs to come with Pro. It just sounds better. It’ll likely be a pretty popular BTO upgrade as well.

Enterprise

Obviously, a huge market for Microsoft and a way to give discounts to this customer base. Enterprise is basically Ultimate but with volume licensing. You won’t see it on new commercial PCs or in retail boxes.

Ultimate

You see? Even “pros” don’t get everything. I think Ultimate is yet another money grab to wring every last dime outta their market. It’s basically Pro “plus.” Included are such must-haves as BitLocker and Branch Cache.

Ultimate will be available at retail and on new PCs, but the feeling is that it’ll likely just be there as a BTO upgrade option on PCs. Ultimate: When Only Everything Will Do.

What Microsoft Got Right

  • I think Starter makes sense from a netbook standpoint. It puts a current Microsoft OS squarely in the game, even as more expensive netbooks can use higher editions.
  • Each edition is a true superset of the one preceding it. This takes away the confusion of balancing what you gain, say, in Vista Business, with what you lose by not getting Vista Home Premium.
  • They will emphasize Home Premium and Professional, even downplaying Ultimate. Six versions, but they’re going to rely primarily on two, which are solid versions.

What Microsoft Got Wrong

  • I think Home Basic is unnecessary. Again, I see it as a grab for a few more bucks from “emerging” markets. Strip a couple restrictions from Starter and let that be your basic version.
  • Given the above, Home Premium could then be just Premium, which sounds better, and is a nice counter to Professional.
  • Ultimate is unnecessary. Again, a quick grab for a few more bucks. Toss everything into Professional and let Ultimate die. Besides, having a product that admits every other edition is lacking features is kind of stupid, in my opinion.
  • No matter how much Microsoft downplays all but Home Premium and Professional, those other versions are out there, and they will confuse the market. Why go there? Microsoft learned from Vista, but not enough.

Conclusion

In my view, Microsoft should have gone from Starter (global netbooks, emerging country low-cost PCs), Premium (what 70 percent of consumer PCs would come with), Professional (for “pros”, those who want to be, or those who simply want everything), and of course Enterprise (volume discounts on Professional).

It would be much easier to articulate the above versions (because they make sense), instead of clouding the issue with a Home Basic and Ultimate version.

  1. Or they could be like Apple and call it “Windows 7″ and “Windows 7 Server”. And everyone gets everything for one great price. And then let the user uninstall the stuff they don’t want.

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  2. No. They got it wrong. One edition. Period. It’s one reason I switched from Windows to Mac. One box. Leopard. No muss no fuss. Simple choice. I don’t feel cheated. Got everything in one box.

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    1. You said it plain and simple. I did the same thing and now I don’t think I will ever switch back to Windows. Stick with MAC and you can’t go to Linux.

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  3. ryemac3, Carl,

    Sorry, but I do not agree with Microsoft going with one version. It may be nice, but it would make little sense for them.

    Comparisons to Mac OS X’s versions do not take into account that Apple is a hardware company. They have no problem with a one size fits all strategy because the goal is to have you buy the hardware. MS is a software company, selling “Ultimate” at $129 would likely cause them to go broke. I wrote about this earlier in discussing these company’s OS sales models .

    Further, while Vista could have gone with Premium, Pro, and Enterprise, I believe Win7 needs Starter because Microsoft MUST do something about Linux on ultra-cheap netbooks. Apple can ignore netbooks as a hardware company (too little profit), but as a software company MS cannot. They can’t allow too many people to get Linux on a netbook, realize that it’s not so bad, and then go with Linux again if they “move up” to a more traditional laptop or desktop system.

    I think the four versions (Enterprise isn’t really a version anyway) I outlined would be reasonable. What bothers me is all the Microsoft leg-humpers coming out and defending Microsoft’s move from six editions to… six! Again, MS did a couple of smart things, but they didn’t do the smartest thing of all, which would be to reduce the total editions.

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  4. m$ missed the boat again by insisting on making multiple versions available. also, let’s be realistic, windows 7 is basically vista and has the same system requirements- so don’t expect it to run on netbooks.

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  5. “windows 7 is basically vista and has the same system requirements- so don’t expect it to run on netbooks.”

    Chris, I’ve run two different versions of Windows 7 (Home Premium and Ultimate) on several netbooks and it runs surprisingly well. As fast & responsive as XP but with the new features and interface of Vista.

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  6. Perhaps a bit off-topic, but I question the choice of desktop backgrounds for this product. the demos we see all over the web use that blue background that makes it look like you are underwater with the light streaming in from above. What kind of a suggestion is that? Use our product and you will sink to the bottom of a lake? Crazy if you ask me.

    The reason I brought this up though is the graphic included with this article “green aurora.” It takes the same theme but makes it look like *murky* swamp water, or dare I say it? Pee.

    While on one level they are nice enough pictures, who on the marketing team thought it was a good idea to focus on images like drowning, being “swamped,” or worse, swimming in pee?

    Yuckers!

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  7. For the best part I agree with you, Tom. If you had to choose between the MS strategy and yours I would choose yours any day. I think the idea of a single OS has something to be said for it however.

    Since the bulk of any MS OS’s in use outside of fortune 500/enterprise are pirated (I would have said outside business, but many don’t have enough licences because they don’t keep track well enough) it would make more sense to have one low cost Ultimate version which was then simply offered at discount in volume licensing. There is no need for a separate product here.

    One size fits all at a decent cost outside of volume licensing has to make more money than a few Ultimate’s, a bunch of OEM Home X’s and a couple of Starter’s. At the end of the day it’s not costing more to give out an “Ultimate” box over a “Starter” box; the code is done (almost).

    Since Windows 7 Beta is running so well on netbooks (as, Kevin says), there is no need for a netbook edition like Starter anyway. If MS want to own that market as well when the machines price them out the market they should just offer a crippled version (with sexy but lightweight interface) for free and see what happens long term.

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  8. One time I told my parents I wanted a horse. I had no idea at 8 years old there were many different types of horses. It wasn’t until later on in life I realized my dad bought me a mule. I wondered if he knew too since it was so hard to choose which one was the right one without a two thousand page write up on it.

    I admire Microsoft’s ability to crank out more editions of software than layers of make up Tammy Fae can put on. But this complexity clearly comes at the cost of quality. I think the comments from the Mac community to Microsoft are saying that Apple’s stance on OS X is a clear example of focusing on one great product versus six not so great versions. Sure Microsoft needs to compete in markets where clean water is more important than running Outlook, Word, and printing at the same time. Really though, are the needs that different that the OS can’t figure this out on its own? I mean if OS X can scale from a small music player to a server handling hundreds of thousands of concurrent connections, why can’t Windows 7?

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  9. Well said Todd, I completely agree. Then, in those developing countries there is an easy financial fix of discounts on that same version. On “developing platforms” such as netbooks you could also offer a massive discount for OEM. It’s all possible with a single quality product.

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  10. Has everyone forgotten that there were actually 7 editions of XP? Home, professional, media center, tablet, pro 64 bit, starter, and embedded. It really is the same situation with 7 as it was with XP. Most people will only see Home Premium and Professional. (also, Enterprise really shouldn’t be counted as a separate edition, XP pro had a volume license version that wasn’t considered a separate edition)

    It’s also difficult to truly judge before we know the prices of each edition.

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