Windows 7 Beta Download Is Which Windows 7 Edition?

Microsoft caused a lot of buzz with its open Windows 7 Beta download earlier this year. With numerous users betting on a strategy of skipping Vista and waiting for Windows 7, it was a great opportunity to get a hands-on look at the next operating system forthcoming from Redmond.

However, some confusion has rolled in in the ensuing weeks. Recently, Microsoft announced that there would be 6 SKUs — or six Editions — of Windows 7 when it is released to manufacturing in the future.

The announcement begs two questions:

1: Is there really a need for six versions of Windows 7?

2: If you’re going to have so many editions, would it have killed you to come up with one more so that there could be 7 Editions of Windows 7? I’m mean, it’s just so much more poetic!

Windows 7

So, which edition of Windows 7 did you get when you downloaded the beta? You got Ultimate. So, don’t get too used to those features like BitLocker if you don’t plan on shelling out for the high-end version, because they’re going to be turned off when you get your retail code.

Windows 7 Six Editions List

  • Windows 7 Starter
  • Windows 7 Home Basic
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Windows 7 Ultimate

Around the Internet and blogosphere, there has been much gnashing of teeth over the numerous versions, or SKUs of Windows 7 set to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting public. Most commentators cry that six editions is simply too many and that confused users everywhere will be left either without necessary features or overpaying for features they don’t need because they won’t know which version to purchase.

Ironically, the issue isn’t as chaotic as is may seem. As has somehow become the norm for Microsoft, the official release of information left too many questions unanswered and required people to draw their own conclusions from too little data.

After the ensuing discussion caught Microsoft by surprise, some useful explanations started trickling out of the four-colored empire that bring the issue under much better light.

To see how it played out, just search for Windows 7 Editions OR SKU on Google and read the tenor of the articles written right around February 1st (Oh, my goodness, how can there be so many?) and the tenor of those written closer to February 7th after Microsoft started to respond to that first batch (Most users will be best served by …)

Which Windows 7 Is Right For You?

As is often the case, breaking down the overall theoretical paradigm into actual reality-based chunks provides for much better understanding. While 6 editions may indeed prove confounding to the average computer user and Microsoft customer, the fact is that they will never even have that many choices.

As is the case with Vista, and was the case with XP, Windows 7’s offerings are primarily split along the lines of home user and business user.

On the home user side are Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, and possibly Ultimate.

On the business side are Professional and Enterprise.

Windows 7 Specialty Editions

Many pundits have commented that Microsoft should only have 2 or 3 editions at the most. However, as Microsoft has correctly pointed out, the number of computer users has only grown, and when you account for a near monopoly (ask the European Union) in that market, even small percentages can represent millions of users.

Thus, Windows 7 has some specialty editions designed to service small subsets of users whose needs may not match up with the majority of computer users. These SKUs won’t see widespread availability.

Windows 7 Enterprise is the first specialty edition. It is designed, not surprisingly, for large businesses, or as systems administrators like to call them enterprises. This version cannot be bought or offered to any user anywhere except for those companies that have a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft.

So, now there are only 5 editions of Windows 7 to cause confusion.

Windows 7 Starter is another niche edition. Like Windows 7 Enterprise, no one will be able to purchase the starter edition from a retailer. Starter will only be offered pre-installed on OEM systems and is limited to lower-end hardware. However, it comes with the fairly draconian limit of only allowing 3 programs to run simultaneously, so you can bet that most customers, savvy or not, will know to opt out of this one if they possibly can.

However, if there is confusion, this is where it will be if netbook vendors choose to load Starter edition in order to offer a “too low to be true” base price on their netbooks, ala cart dealers and their “base” models.

Then there were 4.

The confusion point in all of this would be the Home Basic edition which would require users to choose between Basic and Premium. More specifically, it would require shoppers to read the fine print on computer ads to know whether they were really getting a good deal on that PC or if they were just getting the lower-tier Windows Home Basic edition installed.

But, it appears Microsoft has saved us this hassle by announcing that it will only be selling Home Basic in “emerging markets.” So, while there will no doubt be a way to get Home Basic for the determined, it will not be through the likes of mainstream US computer retailers.

And, then there were 3.

Windows 7 — The Real Editions

The three remaining versions are Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. These three editions are, in reality, the only ones a consumer will actually get to pick from.

There will be some confusion, even with just these three choices. For example, in Windows XP, power-users most likely needed XP Pro. Will they also need Windows 7 Pro? And what about Ultimate?

Many users must feel burned after buying Windows Vista Ultimate and paying extra only to get a couple of cosmetic throw-ins and then be abandoned when Microsoft essentially shut down the Ultimate site and eliminated the possibility of future enhancements.

Will Windows 7 Ultimate suffer the same fate? After all, how can Microsoft hold back a “must have” feature from home users by making them upgrade all the way to the top edition of Windows 7 in order to get it?

Which Windows 7 Edition Should You Get?

Actually the answer to this question will reside entirely in the pricing and not so much in the feature set.

Microsoft has announced that each version will be a super-set of the previous version. That is, Home Premium will have every single feature Home Basic has plus more, while Professional will have every single feature Home Premium has plus more, and so on. (Enterprise next, then Ultimate, if you are wondering.)

Microsoft has been positioning its SKU strategy as a choice for most customers between Premium and Professional. In this case, the primary difference appears to be that Professional can join a domain, whereas Premium cannot.

Furthermore, Microsoft has stated that the ENTIRE CODE BASE will be installed on each and every computer Windows 7 is installed on regardless of what version you purchase. The positive spin on this is that you can upgrade at anytime, presumably by paying for an upgrade key, without needing the installation DVD.

The negative side of this is that if you have Home Premium edition, you will still have your hard drive filled up with all of the binaries necessary to run those Professional and Enterprise features that you will never use. So much for a small footprint.

With these facts in mind, the choice is made simple so long as the pricing is not skewed to penalize those who upgrade versus those who choose to purchase “higher” in the first place. If so, then the only decision that makes sense for the average user is to purchase Windows 7 Home Premium and then upgrade when and if there is a feature that you require.

If, however, the pricing works something like $150 for Home Premium, and $200 for Professional with an upgrade from Premium to Professional costing $100 then, the choice leans the other way.

Considering the lifespan of the average computer and its operating system, the extra $50 spread out over 4 or 5 years works out to around $10 per year for the extra functions.

Or, unofficially of course, you could purchase Home Premium and then wait for the inevitable arrival of the utility that turns on the rest of the already installed binaries for free.

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