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If you were frustrated by trying to figure out which edition of Windows Vista was the right choice ("hmm...If I use Vista Business, I don't get Windows Media Center, but if I use Vista Home Premium, I don't get image backup..."), Microsoft has done us all a favor by rethinking the feature sets for Windows 7.
Yes, there are still multiple SKUs to consider, but this time, you no longer need to worry about what's left out if you move up from one edition to another. To find out how the different US editions of Windows 7 compare in features, what Microsoft is doing to satisfy EU regulators, and what it will cost you to pre-order a Windows 7 upgrade now compared to waiting until it ships, keep reading.
There are three Windows 7 editions that will be sold at retail in the US market:
If you tried out Windows 7 in its public Beta or RC versions, you used a pre-release of the Ultimate edition, although it's possible to tweak the installation process to install other editions. So, what are the major "core" features of these editions of Windows 7?
According to Microsoft's "Which One Is Right for You?" page, here are the common features (many of which we will cover in current or upcoming Feature Focus articles):
Microsoft's list leaves out some significant core features, though, including:
By making image backup a core feature of Home Premium as well as higher SKUs, Microsoft makes it much easier to make Home Premium a "no second thoughts" choice for home or small office-home office users uncomfortable with Windows Vista Home Premium's omission of image backup but not needing the extra features of Professional or Ultimate editions.
Microsoft has dropped the "Business" moniker for its small-business edition of Windows 7 and reverted to the "Professional" label it used in previous generations. And, unlike Windows Vista Business, which forced potential upgraders from Windows Home Premium to trade away Windows Media Center to get support for business networking and image backup, there are no tradeoffs if you decide to try Windows 7 Professional over Windows 7 Home Premium: every Home Premium feature is also included in Windows 7 Professional. So, what else is in there?
The major upgrades to Windows 7 Professional from Home Premium include:
...Windows 7 Professional's a no-brainer choice.
Next: But what about Ultimate?