Six editions of Windows 7: What's with all the whining?

Windows is sold by thousands of vendors on computers that range from dirt-cheap, stripped entry-level computers to high-end workstations priced $10,000 and above

People love to pick on Microsoft, and often rightly so. The software giant is directly responsible for numerous security holes, endless patching, Bob, Clippy, and Windows Vista. It is so easy and fun to pick on Microsoft that people often simply parrot whatever criticisms seem to be in vogue. But one criticism I'm just plain tired of hearing is how Microsoft should pare down Windows to just one edition.

Let's think this over for just a moment. Let's say that Microsoft follows its critics' advice and offers just Windows 7 Ultimate. They pick a nice round number, say $125, and price it at that. Suddenly, the cheapest Windows computers have jumped over 1/3 in price from under $300 to over $400.

Oh, wait, that isn't what you had in mind? Were you hoping it would be priced closer to $50? Netbooks would still go up in price and gain functionality that will never be used. Microsoft would then see a steep drop in profitability as it chops about $100 off the price of each business computer. Most corporations aren't altruistic organizations, and although Bill Gates has become a leading philanthropist, I wouldn't expect the rest of Microsoft to follow suit.

Apple gets away with a single version of OS X because it sells a handful of mostly high-end computers and has enough control to build profitability into every unit.

In contrast, Windows is sold by thousands of vendors on computers that range from dirt-cheap, stripped entry-level computers to high-end workstations priced $10,000 and above, and including every price point and form factor in between.

Linux also has a myriad of distributions, but nobody complains about this, probably because the most full-featured distros are just as free as the most stripped-down ones.

Let's review our choices:

Windows 7 Starter: Great for netbooks and older systems that will never act as a DVR and don't need to join an Active Directory domain. It's a bummer that it lacks Aero and Touch, but what do you expect for something that tacks on a paltry $15 to the price of the hardware. Your netbook probably won't have a touch-screen or decent graphics chip anyway.

Windows 7 Basic: For "emerging markets" which means you'll only see it on an internet café computer somewhere in Laos.

Windows 7 Home Premium: This edition of Windows has existed for years, but used to be called Media Center Edition (MCE) in the XP days. This is what to use if you want to be able to hook your computer up to your TV to use as a DVR and media hub. Virtually all home computers and non-business laptops will run this.

Windows 7 Business: Basically for Active Directory domain membership. This is meant for office use and doesn't have MCE functionality. Your manager likes it that way.

Windows 7 Enterprise: It doesn't matter what this has because you'll never see it unless you're given a computer from a large corporation. (It adds booting from a virtual drive and BitLocker encryption to the Business edition.)

Windows 7 Ultimate: This is for the person who also bought an "Extreme Edition" CPU and cannot stand the thought that somehow, someone out there might have something better than him. Microsoft deserves the opportunity to milk all the money they can from this kind of user.

In reality, people will almost never make a decision on which version of Windows to buy. They'll just use what came on their machine, which makes all of this clamor about the number of options available little more than unhelpful noise.

Michael Scalisi is an IT manager based in Alameda, California.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Windows 7

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Scalisi

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?