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Windows 7. Confusion central or, Why so many versions (again)?

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Microsoft Wndows 7

You’d have thought Microsoft would have learned something from the fiasco that was Windows Millennium Windows Vista. Microsoft Windows Vista started life as a disaster even Irwin Allen would have been proud of. Yet with Windows 7 now at the RTM stage (for the non-tech heads amongst us that means it is past the testing stage now and has been released to manufacture) I can’t help but feel like my head requires further scratching at the decision taken by Microsoft to have so many versions of their operating system. It was a failure when Vista was released and it will remain a failure when Windows 7 hits the shelves.

It’s like Ferrari offering you a choice of a Ferrari 458 Italia, the luxurious new ride from Italy’s finest and a Ferrari 458 Italia Basic Edition, only available in ‘certain countries’, that has a brown interior and the engine from an Austin Maxi.

I’m currently using the Release Candidate version of Windows 7 and must admit, from my use of this new operating system I feel it is far better than Windows Vista and would go so far as to say it is finally time to cast Windows XP aside and go ahead with Windows 7. The problem I have however is deciding which version I will want to buy.

There are many websites offering detailed opinion and comparisons of the different versions of Windows 7 that will be available, including Microsoft’s own ridiculous looking comparison and upgrade charts. I found a great list of the features available and missing from each version at Paul Thurrott’s Super Site. At first glance I actually cannot fathom why the extra features available in the Ultimate/Enterprise versions (both are the same, they only differ in the way they are handled on the licensing side) when they could have consolidated Ultimate/Enterprise extra features in to the Professional edition. It just makes no sense to have to pay a stack more money in order to access features that are only of any real use in a business environment which would be better suited loaded in to Windows 7 Professional.

Streamlining and Xenophobia

By discontinuing the Enterprise/Ultimate editions, consumer version confusion could be significantly reduced by following the simpler version track as utilized by Windows XP. That being a choice of two versions Home and Professional. Nice and simple, you choose one or the other. Done.

Of course in retrospect, the Professional version of Windows XP was initially available as an Enterprise version (until rampant piracy stomped all over it) and maybe it could have been made applicable to Windows 7 Professional (see what I done there?).

As for the various Basic and Starter versions, again this is a non-starter in my mind. If these versions were designed with ‘certain countries’ in mind not only is that xenophobic but it’s also borderline ridiculous to assume that these ‘certain countries’ are reduced to using a stripped down version of Windows 7.

What’s the point of giving them a ‘nearly-OS’? If it is based on the assumption that these nations do not have cutting edge technology in abundance then why give them the option to upgrade to a ‘nearly-OS’?. It clearly will not offer the same experience as that to be used by other nations. It’s like Ferrari offering you a choice of a Ferrari 458 Italia, the luxurious new ride from Italy’s finest and a Ferrari 458 Italia Basic Edition, only available in ‘certain countries’, that has a brown interior and the engine from an Austin Maxi.

A case of new clothes for an emperor

So what is missing from Windows 7 Professional that is exclusive to Windows 7 Enterprise/Ultimate? According to the version comparisons listed at Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite Windows 7 Enterprise/Ultimate features BitLocker, BitLocker To Go, AppLocker, Direct Access, Branch Cache, MUI language packs and boot from VHD.

I took a look at these extra features and cannot fathom why these extras should slap an additional $20 on to the price tag. Seriously, twenty whole little dollars separates Windows Enterprise/Ultimate from the mainstream retail versions.

Twenty whole little dollars will buy you a bunch of features that really offer nothing very new or exciting and would actually be better off featured in the mainstream retail editions. The biggest con of all I feel is the ‘boot from VHD’ feature. The ability to boot an OS from a virtual disk image is already possible and for FREE by way of utilizing Virtualbox from Sun Microsystems Inc. The same applies for BitLocker, there are plenty of FREE open source applications available capable of encrypting entire volumes. Microsoft have a nerve to charge an additional cost for features that are available for free elsewhere.

It’s still great though

Version stupidity aside though, I must confess that I am very impressed (so far) with Windows 7. I love how it runs on even the slowest of systems (again, no need for the Starter/Basic editions really is there?) and installs literally in minutes (at least via a USB stick anyway).

I’ll most likely plump for Windows 7 Professional edition when it hits stores, I can see absolutely no justification at all to warrant getting the Enterprise/Ultimate version and I think Microsoft kind of see it that way too by only offering Ultimate on the retail side of things in limited numbers. I imagine eventually we will see this version dropped and the extra features found in that version made available via Windows Update.

At least Microsoft done something right and dumped the ‘E’ from the European versions. How about going a step further?

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Written by The Editor

August 7th, 2009 at 1:10 pm