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Windows 7 to be sold in six versions

By Eric Lai
February 3, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Windows 7 DVDs will continue to include the code for all versions of the operating system. That means users with a license for Starter Edition, for instance, can do an "Anytime Upgrade" all the way up to Ultimate by visiting Microsoft's Web site and paying. Users can then upgrade their PCs using the original Windows 7 DVD in a matter of minutes, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also plans to offer "upgrade" pricing for XP users looking to move to Windows 7, but they will be required to do a "clean install" of the new operating system.

Windows blogger Paul Thurrott applauded Microsoft's strategy, saying it is less about trying to achieve a Mac OS X-like minimalism -- Apple's operating system comes in a single version -- than to create a logical lineup. In Vista, some supposedly higher-end versions of the operating system lacked features that lower-end versions possessed, and vice versa.

"I think that confused people and made them mad," he said. That has been cleaned up in Windows 7, he said, so that each version is a "superset" of the one below it. That means Windows 7 Ultimate will come with every feature, including supposedly enterprise-oriented ones, which was not true in Vista, Thurrott said. Microsoft did not disclose prices for each version. "That's the missing piece," he said. "If Microsoft does the right thing there, with the stinking economy, then this is all good news."

Microsoft has no plans to bring back the Media Center and Tablet editions that were part of the XP lineup, according to Thurrott, who was briefed by Microsoft yesterday. Media Center features, for instance will be available in all versions from Home Premium on up, including business-oriented flavors such as Professional and Enterprise.

Windows 7 Starter will restrict users from opening more than three applications at a time. It will also lack multimedia features such as the Aero Glass user interface, native DVD video playback and authoring, and support for multiple monitors.

Home Basic will actually include more features than Starter, though it too will lack Aero and Media Center and DVD playback, according to a chart seen by Computerworld.

Home Premium includes all of the above features, plus the new Windows Touch support. Professional includes all of Home Premium's features, plus business-oriented networking and security functions, such as file system encryption and group policy controls.

Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate will have identical feature sets, according to the chart.

Read more about Windows in Computerworld's Windows Topic Center.

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