Microsoft: We Need for 6 Windows 7 SKUs

Yesterday, we learned that Microsoft would be shipping Windows 7 in six different versions -- but it won’t be as confusing as the different versions of Vista, explains Windows general manager Mike Ybarra.

While there will be six known versions of Windows 7 coming at launch, Microsoft assures that most of us will only have to deal with two. “With Windows 7 there will be two primary editions: Windows 7 Home Premium, and Windows 7 Professional. We think those two SKUs will meet most customers needs,” said Ybarra.

Of course, some may argue that so many different SKUs just cause consumer confusion -- which is a warranted complaint on some levels -- but Microsoft’s operating system is so ubiquitous that it has to serve everyone and at different levels. Apple’s single version of Mac OS X is great simplicity, but the reach of Apple’s computers can’t compare to Windows.

Ybarra explained, “Within a customer base of over one billion, there are a lot of important customer niches, or segments, and we want to make sure we have an appropriate product for everybody.”

So the rainbow of versions are here to stay, but at least Microsoft appears to have incorporated some common sense between the different versions.

“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,” said Ybarra. “As an example, some business customers using Windows Vista Business wanted the Media Center functionality that is in Windows Vista Home Premium but didn’t receive it in Business edition. Customers won’t have to face that trade-off with Windows 7. With Windows 7 there is a more natural progression from one edition to the next.”

As we learned yesterday, all different versions of Windows 7 will ship on the same disc image. Those wanting to upgrade to a higher-tiered version simply need to purchase a new product key to “unlock” the additional features.

See our coverage of the different Windows 7 versions here.

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