Windows 7 To Come in Six Different Versions

Microsoft has announced that When Windows 7 is released, it will be available in six different versions, ranging from Windows 7 Starter up to Windows 7 Ultimate. The different versions are somewhat similar in name and function to the different versions of Windows Vista. While many were hoping that Microsoft would abandon this tiered approach, that is obviously not going to happen. Each higher version will include the complete feature set of all versions below it.

Windows 7 Starter permits up to three concurrently running applications, supports Home Groups, and includes "improved taskbar and JumpLists." Home Groups are a simple way to allow multiple systems on the same network to share media and other files as well as printers. Jump Lists is an quick way to access recently-used files.

Windows 7 Home Basic does not limit the number of concurrently running applications--you can have as many apps open as the system's hardware configuration will allow. Home Basic also includes thumbnail previews, supports "ad-hoc wireless networks and Internet connection sharing," and includes Windows Mobility Center (a version of which already exists in several versions of Vista). Microsoft has stated that Home Basic will only be available in "emerging markets."

Windows 7 Home Premium includes the Aero Glass GUI--much as Aero Glass doesn't appear in Vista until you get up to the Vista Home Premium version. Other features include support for more media-type formats, as well as "enhancements to Windows Media Center and media streaming." Another new feature is Play To, which permits Windows 7 to remotely control network-connected DLNA 1.5 media devices. Home Premium also supports multi-touch interfaces and includes "improved handwriting recognition."

Windows 7 Professional includes the ability to join an offline domain with the new Domain Join feature; and Location Aware Printing, which automatically selects the right printer to print to, depending on the particular network you are attached to at that moment. The Professional version also includes "data protection with advanced network backup and Encrypting File System."

Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Enterprise include very similar feature sets--the Enterprise version is for larger-sized businesses that purchase a volume-license-based, Software Assurance Agreement from Microsoft. Both versions include BitLocker encryption for internal and removable drives. Ultimate and Enterprise also include the DirectAccess feature, which allows Internet-connected systems to automatically and securely connect to corporate networks as well as allow IT administrators to manage these systems--all without needing to log onto a VPN. The BranchCache feature allows systems that are in remote offices quicker access to networked data by caching data locally at the remote office site. (Both DirectAccess and BranchCache require servers that are running Windows Server 2008.) Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise also include AppLocker, which is a feature that allows IT administrators to set up control policies that determine what software can and cannot be run on a user's or a group's system.

Of these six versions, CNET reports that "Microsoft said to expect almost all PCs sold in the U.S. to come with either the Home Premium or Professional editions of the operating system." In fact, Microsoft senior vice president, Bill Veghte, said that the Home Premium or Professional versions combined should make up approximately 80-percent of all Windows 7 sales.

As to when Windows 7 will ship, there is no definitive word on that yet. However, InfoWorld reports that Veghte sent a letter to Microsoft "enterprise and business customers," stating that Windows 7 will ship "sometime in or near Jan. 2010." There is also no word on pricing yet, but there is good chance that the pricing structure will be similar to that of Windows Vista. Currently, Vista Home Basic costs $199.95, Vista Home Premium is $259.95, Vista Home Business costs $299.95, and Vista Ultimate is $319.95. Note these prices are all Microsoft's suggested retial prices and that actual retail prices are usually lower.