Update, 25-Apr-2006: For an important follow-up to this post, see Vista versions: Maybe not so confusing after all
Apparently, someone at Microsoft decided to leak the upcoming mix of SKUs for Windows Vista. There are seven Vista versions in all, if Paul Thurrott’s report is to be believed.
And the reaction from the blogosphere is predictable:
Apparently, Microsoft’s new tactic is to confuse the marketplace as much as possible, and hope that people will buy a more expensive version than they really need.
How do you confuse end-users and make it so that your customers never know if applications will work?
Confusing? Maybe not. Let’s break down those seven versions:
- Windows Vista Starter Edition. Already exists in Windows XP. Available in “emerging markets” where the average income is too low to support sales of full versions – Thailand, Malaysia, and Brazil, for instance. Will not be sold in the U.S., Canada, Europe and other developed economies.
- Windows Vista Home Basic Edition. The dirt-cheap, no-frills version for single-PC households.
- Windows Vista Home Premium Edition. Power user version, with Media Center features and home networking support. (Paul says it even supports DVD ripping. Really?)
- Windows Vista Professional Edition. The baseline business version that will go on corporate PCs that don’t need special features.
- Windows Vista Small Business Edition. Vista Pro with some extra online services for businesses that don’t have a full-time IT staff.
- Windows Vista Enterprise Edition. Includes Virtual PC and some extra features for high-end corporate PCs.
- Windows Vista Ultimate Edition. Includes everything in the high-end Home and Pro editions, with some ill-defined goodies like free downloads and online services.
So, if you’re buying a home PC, you can get the Home Basic, Home Premium, or Ultimate version. Most people will probably make the decision on price, rather than features.
If you’re configuring a corporate network, you can get the Pro or Enterprise version. Some of your really picky users might get the Ultimate version for their home PCs. Most buyers will make the decision based on IT budgets.
If you have a small business, you might want the features in that version. You’ll probably be considering Windows 2003 Small Business Server too.
That’s three choices, at most, after you decide whether you’re buying for a home, a corporation, or a small business. Is that really so confusing?
Update: Ars Technica piles on with the “confusing” meme and gets its facts all wrong:
The one thing I will say is that I fear that this may cause a great deal of confusion on behalf of your average consumer. Two versions of XP were enough to cause confusion, and now Joe Blow has four choices that may fit the bill.
Two versions of Windows XP? Try five: Starter (not available in North America), Home, Pro, Tablet, and Media Center.
Update 2: Add Dwight Silverman to the list of those picking up on the “confusing” meme:
Can you say “market confusion,” boys and girls? Microsoft certainly can!
To his credit, Dwight does note that “after reading [the details about each version], you’ll understand Microsoft’s thinking.”
And here’s Engadget:
We won’t tell you all the goodies each version’s supposed to have, but the next time we see him we will definitely tell Bill that staggered pricepoints and confusing upgrade feature sets are no way to ensure people buy (or like) your OS.