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Windows 7 to be sold in six versions

Looking to answer complaints about the proliferation of Windows flavors, Microsoft Corp. said today that it will generally deploy two primary versions of Windows 7, although it will still offer six editions for sale.

The two main editions will be Windows 7 Home Premium for consumers and Windows 7 Professional for business users.

“The first change in Windows 7 was to make sure that editions of Windows 7 are a superset of one another. That is to say, as customers upgrade from one version to the next, they keep all features and functionality from the previous edition,” Mike Ybarra, Microsoft general manager for Windows, was quoted as saying today in a Q&A on Microsoft's PressPass public relations Web site.

That decision represents a return to the version structure that Microsoft used for Windows XP.

As for the decision to focus on just two versions, Ybarra said: “We think those two SKUs will meet most customers' needs.”

Home Premium will give consumers “a full-function PC experience and a visually rich environment in everything from the way they experience entertainment to the way they connect their devices,” he said. Windows 7 Professional “is the recommended choice for small businesses and for people who work at home but have to operate in an IT-managed or business environment where security and productivity are critical. For those running Windows Vista Business, it will be a very logical move to Windows 7 Professional.”

Altogether, the company will still offer six main editions of Windows 7, not including the special “N” versions that lack Windows Media Player, a move mandated for customers in the European Union. That's the same number of versions as in Windows Vista and XP, which both came in six basic editions plus two EU-mandated “N” versions. A

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the company will continue to offer “N” SKUs of Windows 7 for the EU but declined to say how many would be offered.

But the Home Basic version that is at the heart of the ongoing “Vista Capable” lawsuits will be exiled to emerging markets.

With Windows 7, the lowest-end version consumers in the developed world will see will be the Windows 7 Starter Edition, which Ybarra said will become available worldwide for pre-installation on new PCs “limited to specific types of hardware.” That hardware would include netbooks, according to a separate PressPass Q&A with Brad Brooks, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Windows consumer product marketing.

In addition, there will also be Enterprise and Ultimate versions, which both existed in Windows Vista. Enterprise includes all of Professional's features and then some, and it will only be available to large corporate customers.

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