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A Windows 7 product editions follow-up (or, why Starter edition matters and Home Basic does not)

As I had hoped, I've gotten a ton of email about my new Windows 7 Product Editions comparison, which provides a nice breakdown of which features are available in which Windows 7 product edition(s). Check it out if you haven't.

Naturally, a lot of the feedback has involved features that aren't mentioned in the charts, so I've been updating it regularly since first posting the article yesterday, most obviously with a new section on Enterprise features. The goal, of course, is to make the comparison as complete and accurate as possible and evolve it over time. But the current version of the article is based on the different product editions that are available in Windows 7 build 7068, and that build isn't complete. Indeed, over the past several builds, some features have disappeared (presumably temporarily). The Windows Media Player "Play To" feature, for example, has been almost entirely missing in action for several builds now (it appears only if you have a Media Center Extender configured). And in build 7068, Guest Mode (previously called PC Safeguard) is suddenly gone. I'll add that back if and when I can.

But the single biggest piece of feedback I've gotten involves the Home Basic and Starter editions of Windows 7. Why, I've been asked repeatedly, have I placed Home Basic at the start of the product editions list? Shouldn't Starter by first, since that is presumably the lowest-end edition?

Here's why it's listed the way it is. Microsoft explained that it was reversing the roles of Windows 7 Starter and Home Basic editions back in early February. I wrote about this news in my original Windows 7 Product Editions article. Now, Windows 7 Starter edition is a mainstream Windows version that will be sold worldwide, and there is talk that many netbook makers will preinstall this version because it will be so inexpensive. Windows 7 Home Basic, meanwhile, will be made available only in emerging markets. I actually considered leaving Home Basic off of the comparison charts all together (as I had left off Starter in my similar Windows Vista chart from a few years back) because it will impact so few readers of this site. I didn't do so because I knew I'd get emails wondering about it. But given how this has gone, maybe I'll leave it off a future version of the list and include a note about Home Basic instead. We'll see.

Anyway, I hope this clears things up. Put simply, Starter could very likely factor into a future buying decision you will make, while Home Basic will not.

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