Much has been said about the 7 different editions Windows 7 will be released in. As usual this was a typical example of bloggers complaining just to complain. Things actually are much simpler and we here at Forever Geek will simplify the choice for you and explain why Windows 7 needs different editions.
There are only 3 versions that matter for the consumer
And one probable nuisance for most bloggers.
The most important editions are Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Home Professional. Microsoft has decided to drop the Business label for the XP-known Professional label in a try to simplify the choice for the customer. Differences between both editions are almost the same as in the XP era with Professional having all the features from the Home edition, plus network capacities (join a Windows domain), group policy based management tools, Remote Desktop host capabilities, network-based backup features, and support for the Encrypting file system.
As with XP you will decide for any of those depending on if you run a small network or not. These two editions will be the ones you find on the shelf (in the Western world) and more than 90% of the users will opt for any of those. It’s that simple.
Home Premium edition will be installed on almost all of the PCs you buy at the retailer. I certainly hope that thanks to the Windows Anytime Upgrade program there will be the option to buy your PC with Home Premium or Professional for a supplementary fee. I can perfectly imagine a first login screen with ‘Did you purchase the Professional upgrade? Enter your key here‘ option.
That probably just is wishful thinking from my part.
As with Windows Vista there will be an Ultimate edition. This version is only available on the OEM market or as an upgrade and is nothing more than the Enterprise edition (mainly better encryption options) for the home or small business user.
These are basically the only versions which the regular user will have to work with, chose between. If it weren’t for one edition which will be pushed on users with netbooks.
Windows Starter. Windows starter is restricted to the OEM market and comes with features such as missing Aero UI tweaks and limited to 3 simultaneous applications. For most netbooks users this will be enough because most of time all they need is their web browser, Outlook in the background and maybe an Office program or a media program. But bloggers will grab the occasion to complain about the restriction to 3 programs and the incompatibility with our NADD. Still I think for a majority of the netbook market this edition will be good enough and will have to be good enough as it will come with almost every netbook with Windows.
The last two editions are actually of very little concern for the Western market as they won’t be available to the consumer. Windows 7 Home Basic will only be available to emerging markets and Windows 7 Enterprise is only available for volume license customers. One surprise with the Enterprise edition is that it contains all the features of the Professional version, even the Media Center. As a former system administrator in a building with more than 3000 network clients I certainly wished Enterprise came without Media center, just like Vista Enterprise, because most employee procrastinate too much already. *big grin*
So is this line-up that difficult? Maybe if you can’t decide between these 3 versions, yes Home Premium is what you need or just stay away from the computer.
Should Windows 7 have gone the same way as Mac OS X, only 1 version?
Maybe, although I think there should be a difference between the enterprise and home market (see above). We have seen the disaster with Windows Vista and ‘Vista Capable’.
There is no doubt that for many older computers Vista Basic was the ‘saviour’.
In the era of multiple computers at home there should have been no Home edition and it is perfectly imaginable that the installation process has a built-in feature-checker, installing the appropriate version. But imagine the bitching! Mac users (and I have become one of those) are a special breed and they have a much bigger tolerance to errors than most other users. And I still want to see the first Mac network with 3+k network clients.
When I think of my own PC habits, rarely ever do I use less than 1.2GB of RAM in Vista (Enterprise). So yes it would be sensible for me to feature restrictions when on less powerful machines.
Actually I think there should be one more edition: Starter Professional. A Windows 7 version for netbooks without the 3 simultaneous programs restriction and with network capabilities, but without Aero and without Media Center. The perfect option to give to any employee, whether on a netbook or on their desktop PC.