Windows 7: Two main editions, six all told

Looking to address complaints about the proliferation of Windows editions, Microsoft Corp. last week said it will sell Windows 7 in two primary versions: one for business users and the other for consumers.

However, the software vendor will still offer six editions of the upcoming operating system altogether. Mike Ybarra, Microsoft's Windows general manager, said the various versions are necessary in order to fully meet the needs of PC makers and the huge base of Windows users.

"We did a lot of research and talked to a lot of [hardware] partners and customers," Ybarra said. "Our biggest challenge is that we have over 1 billion customers. It's hard to satisfy all of them [with two versions]."

Windows 7 Professional will be the principal version for businesses, with a Home Premium edition as its peer on the consumer side. That hearkens back to Microsoft's licensing strategy for Windows XP, which similarly had two main editions.

But like its predecessor, Windows Vista, Windows 7 will also be available in an Enterprise edition for large corporate customers with volume licensing agreements. That version will include advanced networking and security features that won't be in the Professional edition, Microsoft said.

An Ultimate edition with the same feature set as the Enterprise one may appeal to businesses that don't want to lock themselves into a multiyear licensing deal, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. But Rosoff thinks the Windows lineup remains too complicated for business users.

Ybarra said Microsoft considered cutting the Ultimate edition, aimed mainly at gamers and PC enthusiasts. But PC vendors wanted that version to be kept because they see it as a way to differentiate their systems.

Separately, Microsoft said it will offer upgrades from the seven-year-old XP to Windows 7. But that simply means users will be able to buy discounted upgrade licenses; XP machines would require clean installations of Windows 7, meaning their hard drives would be overwritten.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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