The Windows 7 apple will fall close to the Windows Vista tree, at least in one aspect. The next iteration of the Windows client, will, just as its precursor, come in a plethora of editions, in fact, no less than six SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit) that Microsoft has confirmed officially. Windows General Manager Mike Ybarra revealed that Microsoft would deliver Windows 7 in the following flavors: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. However, fact is that, to the six main editions of Windows 7, Microsoft is bound to add more variants of the operating system, at least two considering the model of Windows Vista, taking the total count of Win 7 SKUs to at least eight, but certainly more than six.
“With Windows 7 there will be two primary editions: Windows 7 Home Premium, and Windows 7 Professional. We think those two SKUs will meet most customers’ needs,” Ybarra commented. Microsoft plans to focus all its marketing efforts on the two main editions of Windows, but the company also wants the 1 billion potential customers already running Windows to have a choice.
“Windows 7 Home Premium is the recommended choice for consumers. It gives them a full-function PC experience and a visually rich environment in everything from the way they experience entertainment to the way they connect their devices,” Ybarra explained. “Windows 7 Professional is the recommended choice for small businesses and for people who work at home but have to operate in an IT-managed or business environment where security and productivity are critical. For those running Windows Vista Business, it will be a very logical move to Windows 7 Professional.”
Just as Vista featured an edition focused on the large corporate customers, so will Windows 7 come to the table with an Enterprise SKU. And also following in Vista's footsteps, Windows 7 Enterprise will be made available to Volume Licensing enterprise customers via Software Assurance agreements. “This edition will not be available at retail or by OEMs for preinstallation on a new PC. Windows 7 Enterprise edition offers advanced data protection, lower cost compliance and IT tools to streamline PC management and help save costs, while enabling access to information from anywhere for business users,” Ybarra added.
With Windows 7 Microsoft will continue to focus on emerging markets around the world, though this time with no less than two separate editions, but mainly Windows 7 Home Basic, while Windows 7 Starter, although offered worldwide, will be limited by the OEM hardware it is associated with. “We know emerging markets have unique needs and we will offer Windows 7 Home Basic, only in emerging markets, for customers looking for an entry-point Windows experience on a full-size value PC,” Ybarra said. “We’ll also continue to offer Windows Starter edition, which will only be offered pre-installed by an OEM. Windows Starter edition will now be available worldwide. This edition is available only in the OEM channel on new PCs limited to specific types of hardware.”
And of course that the Windows Vista Ultimate edition will be followed by a Windows 7 SKU. Microsoft has so far tested mainly the Ultimate edition of Windows 7 during the Milestone and Beta stages of the operating system. Ultimate will be the high-end flavor of Windows 7.
“And certainly there is also a small set of customers who want everything Windows 7 has to offer. So we will continue to have Windows 7 Ultimate edition to meet that specialized need. Windows 7 Ultimate edition is designed for PC enthusiasts who “want it all” and customers who want the security features such as BitLocker found in Windows 7 Enterprise edition,” Ybarra promised.
But what the Windows general manager failed to mention is that, on top of the six core editions of Windows 7, the company will be forced to add more. I am referring to the N editions of Window aimed for the European market where the software giant has to sell Windows with Windows Media Player unbundled. At this point in time Microsoft is offering Windows Vista Home Basic N and Windows Vista Business N. The N flavor will also continue to live with Windows 7. Microsoft will have to offer at least one N edition, with Windows 7 Professional N as a strong candidate, but my best guess is that the company will offer at least another SKU in an N variant, meaning that the lineup of Windows 7 SKUs will feature at least seven if not eight items.