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Microsoft Reveals Vista Packaging

A week after inadvertently telling the world prematurely, Microsoft Monday officially revealed its packaging plans for Windows Vista when the desktop OS family rolls out toward the end of the year.

Particularly for Windows releases, Microsoft has always performed a highly developed dance for customers – gradually revealing more about the product as it gets closer to the big rollout gala -- the idea being to generate continuous anticipation in the marketplace by keeping it in the news.

Sometimes, a small slip up spoils the surprise, however. That’s what happened last week when industry observers spotted a Windows Vista help page listing the SKUs. As soon as it was pointed out to Microsoft, the page was taken down but by then it was too late. (See, “Microsoft Posts, Yanks List of Windows Vista Edition Names,” Feb. 21, 2006.)

Now, however, the names are official. All in all, Vista will come in six packages, the company said in a formal statement. At the top of the line will be a corporate edition, to be known as Windows Vista Enterprise, which will only be available to Software Assurance licensing program customers.

The enterprise package will feature BitLocker drive encryption for protecting sensitive data, Virtual PC Express for running legacy applications unchanged on a legacy Windows operating system in a virtual environment, and a subsystem for running UNIX-based applications. Next down the list will come a package for non-enterprise business users to be called Windows Vista Business.

Two consumer packages are planned as well: Windows Vista Home Basic and Windows Vista Home Premium. For users who must have it all, Microsoft also plans a package called Windows Vista Ultimate which, according to a Microsoft statement, “brings together all the entertainment features, mobility features and business-oriented features available in Windows Vista.” Features of Media Center Edition and Tablet PC Edition are being incorporated into the new packages.

All of the above operating systems will ship in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. All but Windows Vista Home Basic will come with the Aero user interface. Microsoft defines Aero as a transparent glass design with reflections, animations and new navigation features known as Flip and Flip 3D.

Finally, the company will ship a 32-bit package for emerging markets called the Windows Vista Starter. On the Microsoft page posted accidentally last week, this edition was referred to as Windows Starter 2007. Windows Vista Starter is the follow-on to Windows XP Starter Edition, an initiative launched in the summer of 2004. Countries included in the Windows XP Starter Edition effort included Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Russia, India, Brazil and Mexico.

Microsoft is also expected to release N editions of Windows Vista Home Basic and Windows Vista Business for the European Union, where Microsoft is required by regulators to ship a version of the operating system without the Windows Media Player included.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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