You've gotta be kidding.

eWeek asks which version of Windows Vista is right for you?

Is it Vista Starter, which can only access 256 MB of RAM and run a maximum of three applications at a time and doesn’t include the Aero Glass interface?

Probably not.  You’re all about the bling.  So, maybe it’s Vista Home Basic which isn’t crippled (other than it just being Windows – zing!).  Oh, but it doesn’t include the Aero Glass interface either.  And it doesn’t work well in domain or Active Directory networks.

Well, maybe it’s Windows Vista Home Premium.  That has the Aero Glass interface.  Although, uh, it has the network issues, too.


OK. OK. OK.  What about Vista Business?  That doesn’t have the network issues.  It also doesn’t have Virtual PC or a multi-language user interface.

So you might want to consider Vista Enterprise.

Wait, wait, wait.  Forget that.  You know what should do?  Instead of trying to figure this out, you should just buy Vista Ultimate.  Have you got $400?  And another $1,500?  Because you’re going to need a new machine.


Well, sheesh, the Macalope is starting to wonder if you’re really serious about moving to Windows Vista.

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  • Clearly only Business or Ultimate because I wouldn’t actually want to break the EULA when I virtualize them. No, I need to give honest hard-working MS as much of my moeny as possible because they’re really hurting on the finances these days.

  • John Muir:

    To be fair, my 3+ year old PC (my last machine before switching) runs Vista RC1 pretty well, Aero Glass and all, on decidedly not high end hardware. So the ++new PC thing doing the rounds online just now seems overblown from my 1.8GHz Athlon XP, AGP graphics card point of view.

    Of course, the versions and the crippling still do most definitely stink. No way am I forking out the dough for the real version once this beta’s time is up. Sounds about right I finally retire the old rig anyway, that or spend a week or two in the magnificently complex glee of trying to introduce Ubuntu to my idiosyncratic collection of old hardware!

  • Peter:

    Who the heck has PCs with 256 MB of RAM anymore? Even the Mac Mini has 512 MB.

  • Microsoft is doing the same thing with their software that Apple did with the hardware ten years ago: offering too many confusing versions. An OS should be divided like Apple’s is, regular and server. And all Microsoft users should be able to use virtualization on whatever version of Windows they get. I mean, MS should get a clue, the best thing they could do for their community is give them the ability to throw away the OS file and start over when it gets infected.

  • Andy:

    You know, it’s very easy being a dick and picking on Windows with this type of reporting.

    The Starter edition won’t be available in the developed world. Everybody is pretending that the Starter edition is something new, but it already exists: Why haven’t you heard about it? Because it’s unavailable in our parts of the world.

    For home users, their choice is basically from the Home family: Home Basic or Premium. Yes, it doesn’t support Active Directory. Do you seriously think there are home networks that are using Active Directory schema’s? Networking isn’t crippled at all in the Home editions, there are just no enterprise groupware features. I guess your mother and little niece care more about Active Directory support than MSN Messenger, but most people obviously won’t care.

    This kind of reporting is just stupid overall. The eWeek article mentions about the Windows Shadow copy feature: “[o]f course, this eats up hard-drive space”. Why doesn’t anybody mention this about Apple’s Time Machine? It’s just the same feature you know.

  • kyle:

    GLEESON said: “Microsoft is doing the same thing with their software that Apple did with the hardware ten years ago: offering too many confusing versions. ”

    Oh, and don’t forget how the auto industry did the same thing 30 years ago with their engines: packed it with too many confusing components. Or the US government did with the tax code: offering too many confusing rules.

    Or do you mean to throw stones just at Apple when apologizing for MS? While I agree with the rest of your comment, I failed to see the similarity in the comparison. At least no more so than the two that I offered.

  • Andy,

    You can justify it all day long, but the fact is, there are SIX SKUs for the same OS. That’s idiotic. However, the reason is obvious…money. They’ll happily make you upgrade your OS if you want to use a feature that isn’t in your version. The idea that someone could pay once and just use the features of the OS appropriate to the hardware they own, or may buy? Not in Microsoft’s world. They’re all about making you pay and pay and pay. They also are completely incapable of doing any thing in a clean, simple way:

  • I like the last section of the article:

    “Oh, but before I go, let me add that the Linux and Mac desktops, are every bit as good now, if not better, than Vista will be tomorrow.”

  • Andy, technically you are correct, but the Macalope has to got with John on this. There are five or six desktop versions of Windows and one version of OS X.

  • Andy:

    I do agree, especially about the split in the Home (basic/premium) edition. However, I think it is also unfair to compare it with OS X.

    Apple is mostly a hardware company. When Apple want to squeeze cash from professionals or businesses, they can ship the same OS X version on a more expensive machine. The can simply choose to make more profit (as in, higher margins) from Mac(book) Pro’s if they want, and that’s a good business strategy. Especially when your licensing forbids installing OS X on another custom built (high-end) machine.

    Microsoft doesn’t have this luxury. So they have to differentiate for their markets, and it’s not a very bad strategy per sé. My mother uses Windows in a totally different way than an investment banker or a developer. If they wouldn’t differentiate, Windows would probably more expensive for most consumers (and cheaper for small businesses).

    Just for the record, it’s not like I like defending Vista. If you want to pick on Vista, I suggest doing it on the crappy software experience (see this for example

  • Did anyone miss this?

    With the starter version, MS has limited your computer usage? Reads, VistaChristian is next where you can’t access porn or listen to death metal.

    They released Vista starter already less they forget, it was called XP. Old versions usher in new and making a software that limits itself before the box is even purchased is ludacris.

    The computer industry has been based around this concept since it’s inception. What is the difference between my $49.00 router and a $79.00 one by the same manufacturer with “speed burst”? The data comes in port A and goes into my computer? Why not just make the data travel as fast as you possibly can in both routers and not go out of your way to sabatage my router to not connect sometimes. It would save me a headache and maybe I would think about buying a product from you in the future.

  • Saying that the many SKUs and associated overhead that six versions of Windows (in THIS country alone) create is a reason why Windows isn’t more expensive fails any kind of logic test. How much more money do they spend on the campaigns to convince you to buy the “better” version of Vista? It’s more than a dollar. Millions of times more.

    The complexity of creating, supporting, and marketing n versions of Vista have a, (i’ll bet) significant effect on the price of Vista and it’s not a downward effect at all.

  • Blain:

    Why, oh why, do people still think that Microsoft cares about their users? Microsoft is a business. Businesses care about their customers. The end user is not Microsoft’s customer. Dell is. Or HP. Or Leveno.

    To that end, there is a method to the madness. It’s still madness, but:

    Starter: For developing countries, with cheap parts. Most likely, 256MB of RAM is not a harsh limit there, as the computers aren’t exactly top-of-the-line. This is to compete against bootlegs of WIndows 98.

    Home basic: Think of any brand at Best Buy that sells for $100 and have the latest in cardboard computer cases. Bet you they don’t pre-install Ultimate Edition.

    Home Premium: Alright, this is for the Dells. Joe sixpack won’t bother with a network. The only reason that the system has an ethernet port is to hook up to AOL’s DSL or Comcast’s modem, where he can be on the intarweb. Perhaps it’s best that they don’t have AD support; It’d only be used by the trojans and spyware.

    Business: Here’s the real reason for the lack of AD in ‘Premium’: Business is beyond ‘premium’ in prices. So here’s where Dell steps in for the software for executives, the VP’s laptop, etc. But there’s one more cow to milk!

    Enterprise: Of course, a business needs servers. I suppose if you want to keep to the comparison, Enterprise is OS X Server, while all the others are OS X. Because this has Virtual PC to combat VMWare, etc. It’s not sold to us because it goes into Dell’s rack servers. That’s all.

    Ultimate: This is for all the people who are actually asking, ‘What Vista should I have?’ instead of simply getting it with their new machine. Ones that actually upgrade their systems instead of buying a new computer when the HD fails. Ones that, when getting a new system, put it together themselves. They know the license is transferrable. Some of them even grab their OS from pirate sites, or worse yet, install a free OS! Microsoft hates these people, because these are the ones who will re-buy the OS the least. So of course they’re going to go the highway robbery route! If they won’t buy 3 copies over the OS’s lifetime, charge three times the cost!

    Now does it make (twisted) sense?

  • Bill:

    I’m still agog at the notion of six different versions. Even if only four are widely distributed here, I still don’t understand the point. Why bother with so much of the differentiation? If you’ve spent the money developing the “Ultimate”, why not drop the price a bit and offer that as the upgrade to some ‘Home Network’ system?

    I guess I can rule out the ‘Family Pack’ version, right?

  • Blain:

    Because you’re looking at it from an end user’s point of view. It’s like trying to view things from a murderer’s twisted mind. Only it’s a convicted monopolist instead.

    The end user is NOT the customer. The OS is NOT a part of the computer. The computer companies are the customers. The computer is meant to be an enabler of the OS. You want to sell as many copies as possible, especially if it’s multiple copies per one machine. This is most obvious with Home Basic.

    Home Basic has two purposes: To let MS fans claim that they have a better price point than OSX, and to pre-install on bargain basement systems. The hope here is that, given how crippled Basic is, the end user will go and buy an upgrade to Premium. Hopefully, after Premium feels limited, they will go and get Ultimate.

    Having multiple versions give your customers (The OEM machine makers) another tick mark to sell on (Comes with Home Premium!) with the higher end systems, and let you sell the same software again and again, while they wait for another 5 years for an OS release. Were they to simply have one user-level version, most XP sales would have dried up by 2002, as a user getting a processor upgrade or more RAM does MS no good.

    Sucks, doesn’t it?

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