Windows Vista will come in 6 flavors just to confuse you.

Considering how often I get asked what the difference between Home and Professional versions of Windows XP is I’m not at all looking forward to the release of Windows Vista which will have no less than 6 different choices for consumers to choose from:

• Windows Vista Starter, a bare-bones version for developing countries.

• Windows Vista Home Basic, a basic version for cost-conscious households that do only basic tasks such as e-mailing, word processing and Internet surfing. Because it’s designed for lower-cost PCs, it won’t have advanced graphics features.

• Windows Vista Home Premium, the “mainstream” version for consumers, will incorporate features now sold in the standalone Windows XP Media Center and Tablet PC versions.

• Windows Vista Business, a “mainstream” version for business users, includes special features for small businesses and Tablet PC features.

• Windows Vista Enterprise, available only for companies with multiyear licensing agreements, adds security features, including the ability to encrypt a hard drive, so that data is secure even if the PC is lost or stolen. It also has built-in support for multiple languages and virtualization features that simulate older versions of Windows, so that users can run old applications.

• Windows Vista Ultimate, a new “superset” version that includes all features in all editions. It’s aimed at enthusiasts, advanced users and small businesses.

All but the Starter version will be available for 32-bit or 64-bit processors.

Needless to say the bigger versions will cost more with the Home Basic edition tentatively priced at about the same as XP Home currently ($99 to $199 depending on whether you qualify for the upgrade version). Microsoft seems eager to get gamers to make the switch as well by announcing that Halo 2 will be available around about the same time Vista launches and will require the new OS to run. Expect similar arm twisting of corporate clients to take place as Microsoft was not too happy with how slow a lot of folks were to move up to Windows XP.

If nothing else you gotta give Apple credit for sticking to their one-size-fits-all offering with OS X as it makes figuring out what you should get a helluva lot easier.

19 thoughts on “Windows Vista will come in 6 flavors just to confuse you.

  1. Well, there goes me buying Halo 2. Thanks, Dollar Corporation.

    I’m back on WoW with Ventrilo and a mic, I’m not missing anything anymore.

  2. I’m sure I’ll eventually make the switch, but it will likely be driven by hardware replacement, not by “Gee, whiz, I gotta play Halo 2! Woot!”

  3. Well, there goes me buying Halo 2. Thanks, Dollar Corporation.

    Well, companies are in business to make money.  In any case, Microsoft cannot “win” on this front.

    If they release games and Office apps which take advantage of Vista’s new functionality, people will blame them for trying to “arm twist” them into upgrading.

    If they don’t release software which takes advantage of Vista-only features, people will blame them for not innovating and wonder why they should bother upgrading to Vista.

    If nothing else you gotta give Apple credit for sticking to their one-size-fits-all offering with OS X as it makes figuring out what you should get a helluva lot easier.

    Fair point, but let me play devil’s advocate: A Dell machine with XP Pro is still a bit cheaper than a MacOS X machine, and of course you’ll save even more money if you only need Home edition.  So you could argue that Apple makes some people pay for more OS than they need.

    Also, the OEM price for Windows tied to an individual motherboard is much cheaper—think $25 for Home.  If you pay $99 for a retail box, you can move it to newer computers without having to “buy” Windows XP again.  Obviously that’s not possible with MacOS X, since Apple forces you to buy their hardware and a new copy of MacOS to go with it.

  4. Daryl writes…

    If they release games and Office apps which take advantage of Vista’s new functionality, people will blame them for trying to “arm twist

  5. I’m not sure I see the wisdom in having 6 versions.  It seems to me that this is only going to confuse consumers.  I thought home and pro were logical seperations and clear to understand- when Vista arrives I just can’t wait to have to look at a chart the first bunch of times I go to assemble something.  “Hmmm, now do I need Vista 700,210 or Vista 700,489.78….”

    On top of that I’m positive that MS is going to limit some obvious “feature” to the more expensive versions, so that, as a power user, I can either spend more money or be left scratching my head as to why I can’t do some obvious, common, power-user task.

  6. I’m not sure I see the wisdom in having 6 versions.

    Qoayn called it, though. It’s job security for the PC support people, hopefully in the U.S. and not in India.

  7. Technically there’s already 6 versions of Windows XP—or 7 if you count Windows Server 2003—just most folks don’t realize it. There’s Windows XP Home, Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, Windows XP x64 Edition, and Windows XP Starter Edition which is only available overseas in places like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

    Microsoft only tends to talk about Home and Professional editions to the public at large as Media Center, Tablet PC, and x64 Editions are most commonly sold with the appropriate hardware or to corporations so most folks only think there’s two versions to choose from.

  8. Regarding my thing with Halo 2 making use of Vista functionality, there’s a simple backdoor to this, Daryl.

    Don’t make Vista necessary for Halo 2’s operation. Or, for that matter, office suites and the like. There, it’s that easy. Code paths are nice like that. If they make more effective use of new infrastructure found in Vista, and that makes better software, that’s fine. That’s what it means to take “advantage of Vista-only features”, and an entirely different prospect from making them inoperable otherwise. I, and most people I know, wouldn’t be out to criticise MS for creating value in their products. Microsoft has gone into the extreme by holding their own software hostage. Frankly, I couldn’t care if this hostage gets shot. They make decent OSes, but count me out of this one for a good, long while.

  9. Not sure I see anything in Halo 2 that would take advantage of anything new Vista might have to offer outside of DirectX 10.

    You make it sound like Direct3D is minor, unimportant detail for a first-person shooter. smile

    DirectX 10 is the biggest rewrite to Microsoft’s 3D system since DirectX 7 (version 8 and 9 were evolutionary refinements in comparison).  Its internal architecture is different enough that DirectX 9 games will basically run in an emulation layer.  Games written for D3D 10 will have a host of new features, new pixel- and vertex-shader models, and much faster performance.

    More generally, the video system for Windows has been completely rewritten.  Everything takes advantage of ubiquitous 3D hardware now.  Expose-and-Repaint has been replaced by a new system-based rendering tree.

    Obviously Microsoft is going to want their premiere action title to take advantage of these new features.  I don’t see many XBox 360 games being released which only use the features of an original XBox.  I doubt this is a conspiracy to make people buy a 360—more likely, the people who buy a 360 want games which take advantage of it.

  10. Don’t make Vista necessary for Halo 2’s operation. Or, for that matter, office suites and the like. There, it’s that easy. Code paths are nice like that. If

    I suppose they are, when you aren’t the person paying the developers.

    Seriously, coding the entire 3D engine of a first-person shooter twice is not a trivial task.  This isn’t the same thing as just disabling eye candy in your engine—a lot of the programming interfaces have changed in DirectX 10, which is why DirectX 9 apps will run in an emulation layer.  The purpose of that layer is to provide backwards compatibility to DX 7-9.

    Could you write a game to run under both DX10 and DX9?  I suppose with enough money, anything is possible.  Essentially, you’d be writing the game engine twice and recycling most of the graphics content—models, textures, level maps, and so forth.  Even much of the content would have to be re-implemented or thrown away: if their texture maps are designed for Pixel Shader 4.0, they would have to build “dumbed-down” versions for DX9.

    What’s in it for Microsoft to do all of this work?  In return, they get to sell a few less copies of Vista?

    In reality, most hard-core gamers will buy Vista anyway.  Some because they buy a new machine, and Vista comes with it.  And others because more and more games will be using the new features in DirectX 10.

    Much the same argument can be made for non-game apps.  Office 2007 will undoubtably run on XP and 2000—Microsoft is not stupid.

    But a lot of the new features in Vista make life easier for developers.  Indigo makes writing web-based transactions and database transactions trivially easy.  WinFS gives you a robust datastore solution, so that you don’t have to build one yourself.  WPF lets you write native apps in an XML description language.

    Some of these systems will be back-ported to XP, others will not.  But you can’t blame developers for releasing Vista-only apps if they need these features: It costs money to reimplement them on XP, and time-to-market can make or break an independent software house.

  11. You make it sound like Direct3D is minor, unimportant detail for a first-person shooter.

    Not at all, what I’m saying is that there’s nothing in Halo 2 that mandates DirectX 10 to accomplish. The Xbox uses APIs based largely on DirectX 8.1 so porting it to run under Windows XP with DirectX 9.0c should be trivial.

    Halo 2 isn’t using DirectX 10 because it’s necessary for the game to match up to the Xbox version, it’s using it because it’ll require you to buy Vista.

    DirectX 10 is the biggest rewrite to Microsoft’s 3D system since DirectX 7 (version 8 and 9 were evolutionary refinements in comparison).  Its internal architecture is different enough that DirectX 9 games will basically run in an emulation layer.  Games written for D3D 10 will have a host of new features, new pixel- and vertex-shader models, and much faster performance.

    More generally, the video system for Windows has been completely rewritten.  Everything takes advantage of ubiquitous 3D hardware now.  Expose-and-Repaint has been replaced by a new system-based rendering tree.

    Which is fine and all, but there’s still nothing in Halo 2 that requires DirectX 10 to accomplish.

    Obviously Microsoft is going to want their premiere action title to take advantage of these new features.  I don’t see many XBox 360 games being released which only use the features of an original XBox.  I doubt this is a conspiracy to make people buy a 360—more likely, the people who buy a 360 want games which take advantage of it.

    This is assuming that they’re going to be enhancing Halo 2 to take advantage of these new abilities under DirectX 10, so far there’s been no indication they’re going to bother with anything more than a straight port. If it’s just a straight port then there’s nothing in the game that mandates DirectX 10 to pull it off.

    You’re also comparing apples to oranges here. Installing Vista with DirectX 10 doesn’t suddenly cause your video card to sprout new features it didn’t have previously. When you buy an Xbox 360 you’re not just getting an updated OS, but entirely new hardware with extra capabilities. You also don’t gain anything by running Halo 2 on your Xbox 360.

    In short, the only reason to make Halo 2 a Vista exclusive is to lure fans of the game into upgrading their OS whether they really need to or not.

  12. Double dipping as Daryl replied while I was composing mine…

    Some of these systems will be back-ported to XP, others will not.  But you can’t blame developers for releasing Vista-only apps if they need these features: It costs money to reimplement them on XP, and time-to-market can make or break an independent software house.

    Again, there’s nothing in Halo 2 that makes DirectX 10 a requirement.

    Just for the sake of argument, are you seriously suggesting that if Microsoft had pulled a similar stunt with one of your favorite games and Windows ME (which even you should be able to admit is the worst OS they’ve ever produced) that you wouldn’t have been at least a bit pissed off about it?

    If Vista is worth upgrading to then people will generally make the move when they have need for it, trying to force people to make the move (which Microsoft has done in the past, particularly with businesses) just pisses people off.

  13. I wonder what produces the most upgrades?  Intentional, to get the new features and what not, or just as a result of buying a new machine. 

    The only time I’ve actually purchased an OS was XP Pro for the wife’s laptop(Dell Inspirion with WinME – geh!

    ).  $110 for XP Pro Oem/no tech support(like I’d ever use it).  It also enabled me to wipe my Dell and do my own install now that I have a stand alone OS cd.

    I’ll buy some Vista version when I get the cash to build a BTX/PCI-express box, watercooled, dual lcd monitors, maybe with dual dual-core processors and a raid array.  Not to mention a ThermalTake cupholder/cigarette lighter. 

    And a frickin’ laser in the extra drive bay.

  14. As a matter of fact, Microsoft is a convicted predatory monopoly and appears unable or unwilling to mend their ways. In and by itself, that’s sufficient reason for me to eschew their products.

    I consider Microsoft’s products as largely mediocre. Upon reflection, it’s been years since I even paid attention to what products they do release. The last compelling Windows version was NT 4; anything added since could arguably have been done as a point release or unbundled product.

    It might pick up Vista by way of a hardware replacement, but that will be a long time coming.

  15. Les hit where I intended to on the Xbox – Windows Vista DX-API thing. That said, though, I gotta say, I relly enjoyed that post, Daryl. I dunno why, but I think it’s a lot more clever. Keep it up.

  16. Hodge, thanks for the link. It’s pretty much the same press release I’ve seen elsewhere and doesn’t lay out what improvements, if any, are being made that would require it to be locked to Windows Vista and DirectX 10. So far my original point still stands.

    The thing that makes this such an odd move in my mind is that if early reports on Vista are anything to go by then there’s already going to be plenty of reasons most users (let alone gamers) are going to want to upgrade to it when it’s released. The folks over at ExtremeTech have an article up titled Why Windows Vista Won’t Suck that lists off a number of reasons—including many of the points that Daryl raised—that this should easily be one of Microsoft’s more popular OS releases. Granted there may be stuff in Vista that won’t be particularly well received that hasn’t been discovered yet, but so far a lot of folks playing around with the beta builds seem at least somewhat enthused by it.

    I’ve got a beta copy of Vista myself thanks to my job as a PC Support Tech, but I’ve not had a chance to install and play with it yet. I think they’ve just released an updated beta that I’ll have to see if I can get to try out sometime soon.

  17. You also don’t gain anything by running Halo 2 on your Xbox 360.

    Halo 2 looks better on the Xbox 360 because the Xbox 360 has 4x Anti Aliasing.

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