Vista, the sexpartite OS (and teeny tiny teevee tuner)

Welcome to today's IT Blogwatch, in which we count the ways we love Vista, are confused by the answer, and discover how to shrink a TV tuner to fit inside a Lifesaver hole...

Here's the skinny on the six Vista versions, according to Reuters: "Microsoft Corp. plans six core offerings of its upcoming Windows Vista operating system, targeting how people use computers instead of PC hardware specifications ... three offerings aimed at consumers, two at business users and a stripped-down edition for emerging markets ... Microsoft expects Windows Vista Home Premium to be the mainstream consumer product, allowing users to record and watch high-definition television, burn and author DVDs and perform other multimedia functions. It also incorporates tablet PC technology to decipher handwriting to let users write notes on the computer ... sandwiched between the high-end Windows Vista Ultimate, which also includes business-oriented features, and a bare-bones Windows Vista Home Basic without the multimedia capabilities ... Windows Vista Business for small and midsize businesses that may not have an IT support staff. Windows Vista Enterprise will be aimed at large, global companies with tools to enable compatibility with applications designed for older operating systems and encryption features to protect information even if a computer is stolen. All the versions for consumers and businesses are available for both 32- and 64-bit computer systems." [The sixth version is Starter, for emerging markets]

» Ars's Ken Fisher fills in the blanks: "...aimed at three different environments: home, business, and the 'emerging markets' ... Microsoft believes that its new approach to segmentation will better address the needs of its customers, spanning the Windows gamut from basic to 'ultimate' with six new OS versions ... The concept of a 'starter' version of Windows debuted in early 2004 when Microsoft announced that it was going to release a localized version of Windows XP for Thailand and potentially other markets ...  Check out our coverage if you're more curious about the ins and outs of Starter Edition ...  Windows Vista Business, will be most similar to today's Windows XP Professional, but it will also include the enhancements found in the current Tablet Edition of the OS ... Vista Enterprise will be available to volume license customers only (Software Assurance or a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement), and will build upon the Business edition by adding BitLocker™ hard drive encryption, Virtual PC support, and a 'Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications' ... On the so-called consumer end there are three new versions coming ...  Vista Home Basic is similar to today's XP Home ... This OS will not be crippled in any meaningful way, but it will lack the bells and whistles that will be used to differentiate Vista Home Premium ... the Premium edition is now the flagship for Media Center technology ... At the high-end, there's Vista Ultimate ... this version will have Media Center technology, tablet PC support, BitLocker hard drive encryption, and more."

» Mike Barton's view: "Microsoft comfirmed on Monday an early leak that six versions of Windows Vista were slated for later this year ... One analyst says in a report consumers are expected to drive Vista sales at first and the pitch of enhanced security and lower resources needed for business version would push enterprises and SMBs to upgrade but about a year after consumers at least ... Harsh opinion is starting to flow. ZDNet UK commentary, Vista versions are so last century ... Will Vista mean victory in the war on rootkits? has one security analyst praising Vista's use of digital signatures on all kernel mode software."

» David Hunter: "The Windows XP comparison is rather misleading since some Windows XP versions (e.g. 64-bit, Tablet) were hardware specific and the Vista versions are function specific ... All the details are not spelled out, but I can think of several quibbles ... the distinction between the Business and Home families seems fairly arbitrary ... All this variation is also a hidden cost for OEM’s who stock prebuilt systems and I wouldn't be surprised if they did a lot of narrowing down of choices as well ... Support wasn't mentioned either, but presumably the Home family will follow the current home support model while Business and Ultimate will follow the business support model ... Scott Braden presents a skeptical view at Redmond magazine."

» Joe Wilcox, Microsoft Monitor: "I like Apple's approach of offering one desktop OS, for consumers, small businesses or enterprises. And I would like to see more simplicity from Microsoft. But Apple exists in a competitive market. Microsoft competes against itself ... I see Microsoft's version strategy as attempting to create more differentiation. The motivations aren't bad. Microsoft seeks to generate more excitement around Windows and more differentiation among the kinds of computers sold to consumers or businesses ... HP has built up brand equity around Media Center. Does the company abandon that equity or continue using "Media Center" with Pavilion PC names? And if HP continues using the term, will it mean anything to consumers with Microsoft taking a different approach to versions? ... Windows XP launched with two versions: Home and Pro. Microsoft added other versions, like Media Center, Tablet PC and Starter Edition, over the years. Windows Vista will launch with six versions ... it's reasonable to presume that "Ultimate" and quite possibly "Enterprise" would cost more than even Windows XP Professional. CEO Steve Ballmer hinted at such an approach last July."

» Mary Jo Foley: "All of the planned Vista versions, except Windows Vista Starter, will be available in both 32- and 64-bit flavors ... The catch? Microsoft will make Windows Vista Enterprise available to Enterprise Agreement (EA) and Software Assurance (SA) volume-licensing customers only. Microsoft officials have been seeking ways to entice more users to sign up for Microsoft's volume licenses, and increasingly has been using new product and service incentives ... But there's a loophole for Vista customers who are not interested in signing up for volume licenses. That loophole is Windows Vista Ultimate ... some users interested in Vista Enterprise, but not the volume-licensing stipulation, might choose to opt for Vista Ultimate as a workaround."

» Ckwop offers his translation of the Redmond spinmeisters: "We understand from psychology that people can only make effective, informed decisions when the number of choices is low, typically around six. We understand that one of the principles of building is a successful company is to segment your market according to their willingness to pay. Hence, I propose we offer six versions of Vista, each priced differently, each with a clear difference in feature set so that we can effectively capture our consumer surplus without our customers being constrained by the tyranny of choice."

Buffer overflow:

And finally...  Shrunken TV tuner -- fits inside a lifesaver hole!

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at Also contributing to today's post: Judi Dey, our very own Antipodean.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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