Microsoft Hints at Six Vista Editions

A Windows Vista help page has provided some insight into Microsoft's packaging plans for the next-generation Windows release due out later this year. While the company has yet to make any official announcement, Microsoft is ostensibly preparing six different editions of Windows Vista.

At the bottom of the list is Windows Starter 2007, which will likely replace the current Windows XP Starter Edition SKU. This slimmed down version of Windows does not carry the Vista branding because it will not feature the new Aero Glass interface, and is designed purely as a low-cost option for emerging markets.

Microsoft will offer two Home editions of Windows Vista. Home Basic will serve as the recommended SKU for single PC homes, largely replacing Windows XP Home Edition. Vista Home Premium, meanwhile, adds Windows Media Center functionality with TV tuner and CableCard support.

Windows Vista Business will succeed Windows XP Professional. Multi-processor support and more advanced policy tools will target business professionals and IT managers. It's likely that Remote Desktop and advanced networking such as IPSec and NetWare support will only come in the Business edition and up.

For companies that need even more functionality, Windows Vista Enterprise will fill that role. It will build upon Business with Vista's BitLocker disk encryption feature, VirtualPC, and multi-language user interface support.

Lastly, Microsoft will offer Windows Vista Ultimate, a SKU that combines all of the features of the Home and Business editions with even more functionality. However, Redmond officials have yet to disclose what the top version will include.

In addition to the six main Windows Vista editions, Microsoft will offer Basic N and Business N for European computer makers. The special N iterations come without Windows Media Player and were mandated in a March 2004 ruling by the European Commission for engaging in anticompetitive behavior.

For its part, Microsoft says the details were "prematurely and was for testing purposes only." But the six Vista editions closely mirror information leaked out in previous beta builds and match analyst expectations. Nonetheless, company officials say they will share more specifics "in the coming weeks."

"It's essential that Microsoft communicates a clear, simple, compelling message with Windows Vista," Jupiter Research senior analyst Joe Wilcox commented to BetaNews. "The company is selling to a saturated market where many Windows XP users will see what they have is 'good enough.' Microsoft risks that any Windows Vista is 'better enough' message would be lost if customers find the SKU message to be cofusing."

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