Microsoft still hasn’t officially said how many versions of Windows 7 it will sell but, based on what we’ve seen so far, it looks like “many” is a safe bet. We do know that Windows 7 will be available in 32-bit and 64-bit flavors, and while not all of the editions have been officially confirmed, it is possible to read the tea leaves. Those who hope that Redmond will have a change of heart and go back to the ways of Windows XP will be disappointed.
First, the pre-beta that was given away to PDC 2008 attendees was an Ultimate Edition, and while this doesn’t prove much in itself, it is realistic to expect an Ultimate Edition of Windows 7. This is strengthened by the Windows 7 Pre-release Privacy Supplement, which makes reference to an Ultimate Edition under the BitLocker Drive Encryption section: “BitLocker Drive Encryption (BitLocker) is available on computers running Windows 7 Enterprise Edition and Windows 7 Ultimate Edition.”
This quote brings us to the next edition: Enterprise. This one is definitely coming, since Microsoft has already dedicated a section of its website to a list of various improvements: DirectAccess, BranchCache, Search, BitLocker, AppLocker, Virtualization Enhancements, Management, as well as Compatibility and Deployment.
If there’s an Enterprise Edition, it’s possible that we’ll see a Business Edition (but if it does exist, Microsoft has yet to mention it). However, there is a record of a Small Business Edition. On the Microsoft Careers website, there’s a job posting for a marketing manager that lists various responsibilities for the job. One of these is described as “Communicate and generate Partner excitement for Windows Vista Business, Windows 7 for Small Business (future), Office Ready, Server channel programs, and new Server launches with Windows Small Business Server & Essential Business Server 2008.”
My wager is that Microsoft will offer more Windows 7 SKUs to businesses, but not necessarily to the average consumer. It would be nice if consumers only ever had the option to choose between Home and Ultimate editions.
Disregarding the EU-specific “N Editions” as well as Embedded editions, both Windows XP and Windows Vista had six editions, though Vista had more 64-bit support. The reason Windows XP Professional x64 is usually counted separately is that it was released on its own and was actually based on Windows Server 2003 SP1. Here’s how the last two operating systems broke down:
- Windows XP: Starter, Home, Professional, Professional x64, Media Center, Tablet PC
- Windows Vista: Starter, Home Basic (32bit and 64bit), Home Premium (32bit and 64bit), Business (32bit and 64bit), Enterprise (32bit and 64bit), Ultimate (32bit and 64bit)
Windows 7 will likely have about six editions as well, but there are rumors that Microsoft won’t be keeping the same editions as Vista had (perhaps Home Basic will be scrapped). So far we’ve got three possible ones: Small Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise. Care to guess the rest?