For the many MaximumPC.com readers who wrote that two or three Windows 7 SKUs was all that Microsoft needs to offer, the news that Windows 7 will be available in six flavors (Starter, Home Basic, Enterprise, Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate) may seem like throwing gasoline on an already-raging fire. However, before you start reformatting your Windows 7 partitions, take a look at Windows GM Mike Ybarra's reasoning. Here's a bit of it:
The first change in Windows 7 was to make sure that editions of Windows 7 are a superset of one another. That is to say, as customers upgrade from one version to the next, they keep all features and functionality from the previous edition...The second change is that we have designed Windows 7 so different editions of Windows 7 can run on a very broad set of hardware , from small-notebook PCs (sometimes referred to as netbooks ) to full gaming desktops...[emphasis mine]
Although Windows 7 will be available in six SKUs, most of the emphasis will be on just two. Ybarra points out that Windows 7 Starter and Home Basic editions will not be offered in the US, and that the two primary SKUs here will be Home Premium and Professional editions. According to Cnet, these SKUs are expected to make up 80% of Windows sales . Both Home Premium and Professional will include features missing from lesser versions, such as DVD playback, Windows Media Center, multitouch support, and Aero. Although Ultimate, which will bring in features from the Enterprise edition, such as BitLocker support, will still be available, most users who need business as well as multimedia features will find that Windows 7 Professional meets their needs. Engadget has a useful breakdown of the major features of each edition.
With the rise of the netbook, and Microsoft's desire to get as many PC users as possible on a common operating system platform, you could argue that the improvements Microsoft's making in its multi-SKU offering make sense. But, what say you? Hit Comment and tell us what you think.