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Microsoft SKUs Windows 7 clarity

Ultimate fixation

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Windows Wha?

Professional will be for people who work at home and need to connect to a secure corporate network and for small businesses that must manage an IT infrastructure. However, the company's made a fundamental assumption with the Professional edition about the sets of services those working from home or working for small businesses will want.

If such people work from home, outside the security of the corporate office, why wouldn't these customers want BitLocker to secure their machines?

That leads us to Ultimate. According to Microsoft, Windows 7 Ultimate will be for "a very small set of customers who want what everything that Windows 7 has to offer." These customers are "PC enthusiasts" who want features in the Enterprise edition such as BitLocker.

Problem is, Microsoft doesn't do "enthusiast" markets, so what's going on? It sounds more like Microsoft will try to up sell Professional users excluded from the Enterprise edition.

Then there's netbooks.

To its credit, Microsoft's rejected the idea of a separate Windows 7 SKU for netbooks. On Tuesday, Microsoft made the play that the underlying engineering enhancements in Windows 7 meant it would run more efficiently than Windows Vista on these small devices.

And it seems Microsoft believes that's all it'll really take, as it's defined the netbook category as a sub laptop with limited screen and keyboard space that lacks a CD or DVD drive.

And yet, Microsoft will deliver a version of Windows 7 for this market - it's just using a different name: the Windows 7 Starter Edition. Microsoft said the Windows 7 Starter Edition would be "for OEMs that build low-cost small notebook PCs".

Starter Edition will - for the first time - be available worldwide. Before, it could not be sold on PCs in the those "developed" markets of the US, European Union, Australia, and Japan.

And here's where it really gets complicated. Based on what we know about their features at this stage, Starter Edition and Home Edition threaten to tread on each others' toes. Furthermore, there's little to stop Starter Edition spilling out of the OEM-only channel and finding its way onto sites such as Amazon, where you can buy OEM-only versions of Windows.

And that's without the feature and functionality bleed between Home Premium and Ultimate, Professional and Ultimate. ®

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