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Windows Vista Product Editions and End-User Features Revealed

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In the News

- Pre-PDC Exclusive: Windows Vista Product Editions Revealed
- Pre-PDC Exclusive: Windows Vista End-User Features Revealed
- Pre-PDC Exclusive: Windows Vista Processor and Memory Support Revealed

==== In the News ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Pre-PDC Exclusive: Windows Vista Product Editions Revealed

Two days before the start of Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) 2005, I received exclusive insider information about the product editions that Microsoft intends to create for Windows Vista (code-named Longhorn). Although the exact breakdown of the Vista editions has been the subject of much speculation, the list closely matches the editions list I first published on the SuperSite for Windows last year.
Microsoft plans two general Vista edition categories, which map closely to the two that exist today for Windows XP (XP Home Edition, which includes XP Starter, Home, and Media Center Editions, and XP Professional Edition, which includes XP Pro, Pro x64, and Tablet PC editions). Vista will feature two categories: Home and Business. In the Home category, Microsoft will create four product editions: Vista Starter Edition, Vista Home Basic Edition, Vista Home Premium Edition, and Vista Ultimate Edition (previously known as the "Uber" Edition). The Business category will feature three editions: Vista Small Business Edition, Vista Professional Edition, and Vista Enterprise Edition.
Note that these product names are placeholders; they could change before the final products are released. However, this breakdown of editions is current as of this week and is unlikely to change.
Vista Starter will be designed for beginning computer users in emerging markets who can afford only a low-cost PC. As with the XP version, Vista Starter will be a subset of Vista Home and will ship in a 32-bit version only. The product will let only three applications (or windows) run simultaneously, will provide Internet connectivity but not incoming network communications, and won't provide for logon passwords or Fast User Switching. Vista Starter is analogous to XP Starter and will be sold only in emerging markets.
Vista Home Basic, a simple product designed for single-PC homes, will be the baseline version on which all other Vista editions will build. It will include features such as Windows Firewall; Windows Security Center; secure wireless networking; parental controls; antispam, antivirus, and antispyware functionality; network mapping; Windows search functionality; the Aero UI; Windows Movie Maker; a photo library; Windows Media Player (WMP); Microsoft Office Outlook Express with Really Simple Syndication (RSS) support; P2P Messenger; and more.
Roughly analogous to XP Home, Vista Home Basic will be designed for general consumers, XP and Windows 9x Starter Edition upgraders, and price-sensitive or first-time buyers. Vista Home Premium will provide entertainment and personal productivity throughout the home and on the go. As a true superset of Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium will include everything from Vista Home Basic, as well as Media Center and Media Center Extender functionality (including cable card support), DVD video authoring and HDTV support, DVD-ripping support (yes, you read that right), Tablet PC functionality, Microsoft Mobility Center and other mobility and presentation features, auxiliary display support, peer-to-peer (P2P) ad hoc meeting capabilities, Wi-Fi autoconfiguration and roaming, unified parental controls that work on multiple PCs, backup-to-network functionality, Internet File Sharing, offline folders, PC-to-PC synchronization, Sync Manager, and support for Quattro (a new Longhorn Server version). Vista Premium is similar to XP Media Center Edition (XP MCE) but adds several other features and functionality, including Tablet PC support. My guess is that it will be the Vista volume consumer offering (today, XP Pro is the dominant seller). This version is designed for PC enthusiasts, multiple-PC homes, homes with kids, and notebook users.
Vista Pro, a powerful, reliable, and secure OS for businesses of all sizes, will include domain-join and management functionality, compatibility with non-Microsoft networking protocols (e.g., Novell NetWare, SNMP), Remote Desktop, Microsoft IIS, and Encrypting File System (EFS). In addition, Vista Pro Standard will include Tablet PC functionality. Vista Pro is roughly analogous to today's XP Pro. This version is designed for business decision makers and IT managers and generalists. Vista Small Business, which will be designed for small businesses that don't have IT staff, will be a superset of Vista Pro Standard and will include unique features such as backup and Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) support, server-join networking, and PC fax and scanning utilities. Microsoft might include other features, including a Small Business Edition guided tour, prepaid access to the Windows Live! or Microsoft Office Live! subscription services, Multi-PC Health (a managed version of Microsoft OneCare Live), and membership in the Microsoft Small Business Club online service. Microsoft will offer a step-up program for Small Business Edition that will let customers upgrade to Vista Enterprise or Vista Ultimate at a reduced cost. This SKU is new to Vista; no XP Small Business Edition exists. This version is designed for small-business owners and managers.
Vista Enterprise will be optimized for the enterprise and will be a true superset of Vista Pro. It will also include unique features such as Virtual PC, the Multilanguage User Interface (MUI), and the Secure Startup-Full Volume Encryption security technologies (code-named Cornerstone). No analogous XP version exists for this product, which is designed for business decision makers, IT managers and decision makers, information workers, and general business users.
Vista Ultimate promises to be the best OS ever offered for the personal PC and will be optimized for the individual. Vista Ultimate is a superset of both Vista Home Premium and Vista Pro; it includes all the features of both product versions and adds a Game Performance Tweaker with integrated gaming experiences, a Podcast-creation utility (which is under consideration and might be cut from the product), online club services (i.e., exclusive access to music, movies, services, and preferred customer care), and other offerings that are currently under consideration. Microsoft is still investigating how to position its most impressive Windows release yet and might offer Ultimate Edition owners such services as extended A1 subscriptions, free music downloads, free movie downloads, Online Spotlight and entertainment software, preferred product support, and custom themes. Nothing like Vista Ultimate exists today. This version will be designed for high-end PC users and technology influencers, gamers, digital media enthusiasts, and students. According to internal Microsoft documentation, the goal of the Vista product edition differentiations is to provide a "clear value proposition" to all customer segments and to take XP-era innovations, such as the Media Center and Tablet PC functionality, to the mainstream. The company is also positioning Vista as a transitionary product for the x64 platform: Almost all Vista editions will be offered in both x86 (32-bit) and x64 (64-bit) versions. Post-Vista, Microsoft expects to transition almost completely to x64 versions.
I'll expand on this information in a showcase for the SuperSite for Windows. Check the site for the latest news about the Vista releases, including a comparison table of Vista and XP products.

Pre-PDC Exclusive: Windows Vista End-User Features Revealed

An examination of Microsoft internal documentation this weekend revealed that the software giant is prepping several major end-user features for Windows Vista (code-named Longhorn), many of which had not yet been revealed. Here's a rundown of many of the features we can expect in the various Vista product editions.
Microsoft is creating seven versions of Vista for end users (nine if you count the N Editions that will target European markets). To differentiate these products, the company is carefully matching feature sets to the expected markets that will adopt each product version.
Two low-end versions of the product, Vista Starter Edition and Vista Home Basic Edition, won't feature the much-vaunted Aero UI that will adorn all the other Vista versions. Instead, these versions will use a lower-quality, XP-like UI that's more appropriate for the low-end hardware that infrequent PC users and emerging markets might use. Vista Starter and Vista Home Basic will also lack the rolodex, tab previews, and task bar preview features that other Vista editions will offer.
A new version of Microsoft IIS, to be called Microsoft Windows Web Server, will be included only with the business-oriented versions (Vista Professional, Professional N, Small Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions). These versions will also include other unique features, such as a Windows fax client and the ability to join an Active Directory (AD) domain. However, Vista Home Premium will be able to join new home-oriented domains offered by a new Longhorn Server version that's code-named Quattro.
On the digital media front, Vista Home Premium and all the business- oriented versions will feature DVD authoring, Windows Movie Maker High Definition (HD) publishing, advanced photography features such as fine- grain editing, and premium games such as 3D Chess and Shanghai Solitaire. Home Premium and Ultimate will feature integrated Media Center functionality and, crucially, the ability to act as software- based Media Center Extenders (code-named Softsled). All editions except the N Editions will include a new version of Windows Media Player (WMP).
How about mobility? Home Premium and all the business-oriented Vista versions will include Tablet PC functionality, will support auxiliary displays, and will include mobility-oriented features such as the Mobility Center and PC-to-PC sync.
On the business front, Vista Enterprise Edition and Vista Ultimate Edition will include the new Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications (SUA) and single-session Virtual PC (for backward-compatibility with legacy applications) as optional installations. Both editions will also support the Secure Startup-Full Volume Encryption security technologies (code-named Cornerstone), which are the start of Microsoft's Palladium push. One feature I don't quite understand is Windows Activation Services. According to the documentation I've reviewed, the business-oriented versions of Vista won't include this technology but the home-oriented versions will. I'll try to dig around for more information.
Microsoft has released a lot more information, which I've pulled into a comprehensive table for the SuperSite for Windows. See the article "Windows Vista Product Editions Preview" at the URL below.

Pre-PDC Exclusive: Windows Vista Processor and Memory Support Revealed

According to Microsoft internal documentation, most product editions of Windows Vista (code-named Longhorn), the next major Windows version, will be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit (x64) versions or will support both architectures via a single installation. Microsoft is dividing the Vista product line into seven discrete editions (nine if you include European-based N editions)--Vista Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Home N, Professional, Professional N, Small Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate Editions--and will differentiate them with various features. Part of that differentiation will involve the number and type of processors and the amount of RAM the products will support.
As you might expect, Vista Starter will be the most constrained edition. It will support one 32-bit microprocessor and up to 256MB of RAM. The screen resolution will be limited to 1024 x 768 (up from 800 x 600 in Windows XP Starter Edition).
The other editions--Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Home N, Professional, Professional N, Small Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate Editions--will ship in both 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) versions (or will support both architectures). All the home-oriented editions will support one processor, whereas the business-oriented editions (and Ultimate Edition) will support two.
Home Basic and Home N will be limited to 8GB of RAM, whereas Home Premium will support up to 16GB of RAM on both 32-bit and 64-bit PCs. All the other products will support the maximum physical memory size on 32-bit systems and up to 128GB of RAM on x64 systems (although Microsoft could increase that amount in the future because that figure is soft-limited). For more information, see the article "Windows Vista Product Editions Preview" at the URL below.

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