A major criticism of Windows XP has been that it was fragmented into Home edition, Corporate Edition, Media Center Edition, and the ever-lame Starter edition (see my short rant about it). To anyone with sense, this was a very stupid thing.
So what did they do for the upcoming Windows Vista operating system? Make even more divisions.
First up, there’s Starter Edition, which like XP Starter Edition, is a crippled (and lame) product aimed at the two-thirds world. It will limit users to three concurrent applications, and provide only basic TCP/IP networking, and won’t be suitable for most games. The next step up is Home Basic Edition, which is really the sibling to today’s Windows XP Home. However, as the name suggests, there’s also Home Premium Edition, and this is where we start to split features like hairs and create a gaggle of products. HPE will build on the the Basic Edition by adding, most notably, the next-generation of Media Center capabilities, including support for HDTV, DVD authoring, and even DVD ripping backed up (of course) by Windows DRM. For non-corporate types, this is probably going to be the OS that most people use. It’s similar to XP Pro in power, but with all of the added bells and whistles for entertainment. Well, most of them.
Windows Vista Professional Edition won’t occupy the same spot that XP Pro occupies today, because this time it’s truly aimed at businesses. It won’t feature the MCE functionality that Home Premium Edition has, but it begins to provide the kind of functionality you’d expect in a business environment, such as support for non-Microsoft networking protocols and Domain support. But don’t expect too many businesses to necessarily turn to PE. Microsoft is also planning both a Small Business Edition and an Enterprise Edition, which build upon pro by adding (seemingly minor) features aimed at appealing to each market. SBE, for instance, includes a networked backup solution, while EE will include things like Virtual PC integration, and the ability to encrypt an entire volume of information.
Last but not least, there’s Ultimate Edition.
Isn’t that just wonderful. Oh Microsoft, will you ever learn? You may still be by far the market leader, but no wonder OSX and Linux are slowly gaining market share. You dangle the carrot of a major upgrade in front of consumers for 5 years, and then you spin them around and mount them like an alpha male.
I can predict—using my keen powers of observation—that there’s going to be a lot of pirated copies of Ultimate Edition and not a whole lot else. On the other hand, given all the horrible stuff I’ve read about the nasty DRM in Vista and its lackluster feature list, now would be a good time for people to try out Linux.