Microsoft offers clarifications on Windows 7 SKU issues

A number of key details surrounding Microsoft's announcement yesterday on Windows 7 versions were left up in the air, and now spokespersons are working to bring them down to earth.

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to Betanews this afternoon that Windows 7 Home Basic -- the version of the operating system that would have reduced "experience" features, comparable to Vista Home Basic -- will not be available to retail customers in the US, Canada, and Western Europe. But Win7 Starter Edition -- which was at one time touted as the company's emerging markets version -- will be available through retail channels.

Betanews presented a Microsoft spokesperson this morning with a list of issues we had following yesterday's announcement, and what follows is the precise transcript of the questions we asked and the company's responses:

Betanews: Will Home Basic still be available to customers outside of the emerging markets that Mike Ybarra mentioned, such as the US, Canada, and Western Europe?

Microsoft: No, Windows 7 Home Basic will be only available in emerging markets; however, Windows 7 Starter will be available worldwide.

Betanews: Will the price point differential between Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate be roughly the same as for their Vista counterparts?

Microsoft: Final decisions are still being made on details like pricing. We will be in touch when we have more to share.

Betanews: Ybarra mentioned that different versions of Win7 would be available for netbooks and small form-factor PCs, though he didn't mention which one, specifically. Are we to assume he meant Home Basic or Starter Edition?

Microsoft: Customers who have only basic computing requirements can choose Windows 7 Starter Edition. However, customers interested in getting the most complete consumer experience from their small notebook PC investment will want to consider Windows 7 Home Premium, which offers richer multimedia capabilities and visual enhancements, if their netbook has sufficient hardware. However, Windows 7 was designed in a way that any edition of the OS should be able to run on small notebook PCs with sufficient hardware.

Betanews: Will the "user experience" in Home Basic still be somewhat limited, in the same way Vista Home Basic is limited compared to Vista Home Premium (the Aero environment is disabled)?

Microsoft: As each SKU builds upon the one below it, the first few SKUs in the lineup do have more limited functionality. Aero Glass and its enhanced navigation is a feature that is first available in the Windows 7 Home Premium SKU.

Betanews: Last October, [Microsoft Corp. VP for Windows Product Management] Mike Nash gave us an indication that there would be a Windows 7 SKU for netbooks? Was that being considered, and if so, why was the idea turned down?

Microsoft: All versions of Windows 7 will be made available for the small notebook PCs known as netbooks. For OEMs that build lower cost small notebook PCs, Windows 7 Starter will now be available worldwide. Microsoft recommends the more complete versions of Windows 7 like Windows 7 Home Premium on small notebook PCs with sufficient hardware for customers who want more than just basic features on these small PCs.

Betanews: Do consumers have any reason to expect price increases for this round?

Microsoft: Final decisions are still being made on details like pricing. We will be in touch when we have more to share.

Update banner (stretched)

7:20 pm EST February 4, 2009 - Late this afternoon, Microsoft's spokesperson nailed down a response to another of our questions. When asked whether the "experience" included in Home Premium and Ultimate editions would still be called "Aero," as it has been for Windows Vista, the spokesperson responded, "Yes, Aero will be the final name."

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