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3/22/2006
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Scot Finnie
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Vista Delays And Multiple Versions: Cut Through The Confusion

Scot Finnie installed four of Vista's six versions and tells you what's in them, what hardware you need to run them, and what to think about Microsoft bumping consumer Vista to 2007.

Could Microsoft confuse potential buyers of Windows Vista any more royally than it has over the past month? Six completely new versions, but what truly differentiates them? What will the real hardware requirements be? And by the way, businesses, which are unlikely to buy the operating system in big numbers before 2008, get Vista this November, while consumers who tend to buy new PCs at holiday time won’t see it until January 2007. What gives?


Vista Delays, Multiple Versions


•  Introduction

•  Six Versions Analyzed

•  The Hardware Experience

•  Takeaways


These mixed messages could wreak havoc this holiday season. To date, Microsoft has not released official system requirements for the shipping version of Vista, so PC buyers of all types may be playing a guessing game. And OEM PC makers will have a tough time certifying their holiday XP PCs as Vista-ready without access to final consumer Vista code to test with. (For a timeline of Microsoft's various Vista development delays, read Vista Setback Timeline.)

The good news is that the current beta of Vista offers clues about the Vista versions, both the ones shipping in November and the ones shipping in January 2007. It also provides some harder information about the hardware required to support the different flavors of Windows Vista and the two video modes, Vista Basic and Vista Aero.

Introducing The Versions
In February, Microsoft distributed the latest widespread beta to Vista reviewers in two variations only: 32-bit and 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate. As you might guess from its name, the Ultimate edition of Vista is the superset. It contains all the features from the lesser versions of Windows Vista, both business and consumer, and adds a few of its own. Because it is the "everything" version, it offers no useful information about the differences between itself and the other five Vista versions.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has provided little hard information about the planned differences between its six versions of Vista, claiming that it isn't ready to reveal details yet. Originally there was only a hazy press release. More recently, a glitzy marketing-oriented Windows Vista Web site has appeared that offers some additional detail, but not enough to be really helpful.

What features will be missing from Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Enterprise, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Home Basic, and Windows Vista Starter? To find out as much as I could, I acquired access to the Business, Home Premium, and Home Basic versions of the February CTP (build 5308), and installed them on various PCs on my test network. That effort taught me both about some of the features specific to each version and about the real-world hardware requirements for the various versions.

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