Can it really be? Is Microsoft really looking to release six, yes six versions of Windows 7? One of the big issues with Windows Vista was the confusing matrix of SKUs and feature sets and it looks like Microsoft still hasn’t learned the lessons of Vista. While some might argue that most users will only be facing the choice of two SKUs, namely home and professional, that’s not true (and two is too many). First, the breakdown between home and professional assumes an artificial line between business users and consumers. What if I’m a business user by day who needs access to things like domains and programs like BitLocker? Or perhaps I’m a consumer in the evening who’d like to use Windows Media Center. It’s not about business or consumer, it’s about people and Microsoft’s SKUs aren’t people centric. (The answer to my question above is you can’t get both feature sets in either business or pro, once again you need to go to ultimate). Don’t even get me started on the idea of Windows Starter edition, designed for emerging markets where no one wants to run more than three apps at the same time as the new OS of choice for netbooks. Looks like now I’m at four choices. Of course, there’s also enterprise for business to consider and let’s not forget about basic, because in a down economic market, there’s going to be a lot of folks looking to save wherever they can on purchases. So in the end, it’s really about six choices that users have to wade through.
I won’t compare Windows to OS X but the fact that Apple simply offers one SKU, with attractive license terms to home users, with all features intact is something Microsoft needs to learn from. At a time when Microsoft is doing quite a bit to learn from the mistakes it made with Vista, it’s disappointing to see one of the biggest mistakes being replicated. There’s still plenty of time to change before release, here’s hoping that Redmond fixes this before the folks in Cupertino turn this into their next commercial.