Microsoft releases versions of Windows 7

When Microsoft releases the different editions of Windows Vista in 2006, the market was baffled. The question on everyone’s mind seemed to be “why do we need this many versions of the same operating system?” The feature set was confusing, and to the average Joe Schmo, deciding on which version was right for his needs might’ve been a serious task requiring third party consulting.

Microsoft seems to have learned for this mistake, however. The software giant recently announced the versions of Windows 7 that will be available – Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional (previously dubbed “Business”), Enterprise, and Ultimate – and though the list is similar to Vista, there’s a twist.

According to PC Magazine, only Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional will be readily available to consumers. Previously, all versions of Vista – save for Vista Starter and Vista Enterprise – were available for consumers to purchase.

Vista Starter was reserved for developing countries and could only run three applications at one time. For Windows 7, Microsoft has actually switched the roles of the Starter and Home Basic editions. Windows 7 Starter will be available on low-end PCs direct from the manufacturer, but will still have the same limitations that Vista Starter had. Windows 7 Home Basic will be the new product targeted at developing markets.

Windows 7 Enterprise, much like Vista Enterprise, will still only be available for volume licensing – namely for large organizations that need many copies of the software for many different computers. Windows 7 Ultimate will be targeted to enthusiasts and gamers just like Vista Ultimate, but this time around, it will only be available as an upgrade from another version of Windows 7.

In short, Windows 7 will still have six versions, but when consumers go to the store and look on a shelf, they’ll only see two – Home Premium and Professional, hopefully ending confusion on that aspect of the product.

However, to even further alleviate confusion of the product line, unlike its predecessor, Windows 7 will be hierarchical, meaning that every version of the operating system will contain all features that the version below it has. Thus, Windows 7 Home Premium will contain all of the features found in the Starter and Home Basic editions, but will not contain some of the features found in the Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions.

Still think this is confusing? You can at least be comforted knowing that Microsoft isn’t taking any hints from the open source community with their literally hundreds, if not thousands of versions of Linux-based operating systems. However, Microsoft still hasn’t made it quite as simple and convenient as the one version of Mac OS X that Apple offers with all features included.

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