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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Windows 7

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

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?