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10/22/2009
01:53 AM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
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Why Windows 7 Comes In So Many Versions

As Windows 7 hits stores today, there's still one question left: Which version is right for me and my company? Windows 7 comes in so many different versions -- many of them with new names -- that it's all to easy for business and consumer users to get confused. I asked Microsoft VP Margo Day why the company needed so many versions.

As Windows 7 hits stores today, there's still one question left: Which version is right for me and my company? Windows 7 comes in so many different versions -- many of them with new names -- that it's all to easy for business and consumer users to get confused. I asked Microsoft VP Margo Day why the company needed so many versions.In addition to Microsoft's inexplicable upgrade pricing policies, it's a question I've been thinking about for a while. Apple, for example, makes do with a single version of its operating system. Would it have been so difficult for Microsoft to settle on one business version and one consumer version?

Ms. Day, who is vice president for Microsoft's Small to Midsized Solutions and Partners Group -- West Region, responded this way:

"We are focusing on two primary editions of Windows 7: Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional. We expect most consumers to choose Home Premium. We know that many small- and medium-sized businesses and students want to use their PCs both for work and personal purposes; for those customers we recommend Windows 7 Professional as the next step up.

Businesses have two main choices: Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise. Windows 7 Professional is recommended for small businesses and Windows 7 Enterprise is recommended for mid- and large-sized businesses with a Software Assurance agreement with Microsoft and [which] desire advanced IT management and security features such as BitLocker, which is not available in the Professional version.

When you have a customer base of more than one billion customers, two options can't satisfy all of their varied needs. For that reason we will continue to offer a few targeted SKUs for customers with specialized needs: for price-sensitive customers with small notebook PCs, some OEMs will offer Windows 7 Starter. For customers in emerging markets, we will make Windows 7 Home Basic available.

Businesses have two recommended choices: Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise... Finally, for enthusiasts that "want it all" and customers who want enhanced security features such as BitLocker that are in Windows 7 Enterprise edition, we will continue to offer the Ultimate SKU."

There you have it. Makes sense as far as it goes, but still seems like the company could avoid confusion by combining the functionality of multiple versions into one, and then letting users select a -- preselected? --configuration from there.

After all, this is software we're talking about. It doesn't cost Microsoft anything extra to package it all in and let users choose what they want to actually install and run.

Such a set up might affect Microsoft's revenue potential, but it also might increase overall sales by eliminating customer hesitations about which version is right for whom.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

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