Microsoft takes the wind out of Windows 7's sails

, posted: 4-Feb-2009 11:07

Windows 7
Microsoft operates in mysterious ways, there's no doubt about that. While I expected there to be multiple versions of Windows 7, I thought Microsoft had listened to customers and would take the opportunity to weed out some of less than useful SKUs. Not so: Windows 7 will come in no fewer than six versions.

That means two business versions (one for SMEs, another for Big Corps with Software Assurance deals), two Home versions (one for "emerging markets" only) and good old Ultimate that has everything and the kitchen sink thrown in, bar perhaps some of the corporate stuff.

These will all be at different price points no doubt, and volume licensing deals. Power users will avoid anything else apart from Ultimate of course, but won't the lower-grade versions annoy customers buying computers with them installed, and who face further costs to upgrade to a more feature-rich SKU? All the different versions will be more complex to and costly to manage for OEMs too.

It's possible that Microsoft stands to make more money from Windows 7 thanks to the different versions, but doesn't it come at the expense of irritating customers who do not want the additional complexity or cost?

The last version, Windows 7 Starter, is curious too. At a recent presentation at Microsoft's Auckland office, a bunch of journos including yours truly were shown some netbooks running Windows 7. Quite happily and snappily too, I should add, with machines in the 1GHz CPU range and with 512MB to 1GB of RAM. That was a pleasant surprise, as it shows Microsoft has been paying attention and sorted out one of the biggest complaints about Vista, namely it's avaricious resource hunger.

If I read the Windows 7 SKU list right, Windows 7 Starter is aimed at the cheap, low-powered netbooks above. However, it's limited to running only three concurrent applications which would seem to make it less than useful, even on feeble netbooks. In that scenario, what does a customer who wants to run more than three apps on his/her netbook do? Upgrade to a better version, maybe, but that'll cost $$$, defeating the reason for buying the cheap netbook. That's assuming the better versions will run on low-spec machines, as the current beta ones do. In that scenario, won't the netbook purchaser just head for the nearest Linux distro, which won't have an artificial three-app limit and which won't break the bank?

Seems a shame that Microsoft manages to undo some of the good promises for Windows 7 with a complex and confusing number of editions, some of which appear to be rather pointless.

Update Had some feedback via Twitter from Rafael Rivera Jr of WithinWindows fame, on the versioning. Rafael says the "consumer-facing" SKUs will be Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate. Starter on the other hand will be for emerging markets only, in countries like India. It's not netbook-specific, apparently. Humm...

Other related posts:
Fighting with Windows 8
The Windows Phone 7.5 bouncing tiles bug
Windows Live Essentials betas seem good, but oh so flaky

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