Windows 7 LogoMicrosoft has revealed the SKUs (Store-Keeping Unit) or product editions that Windows 7 will be available in. Unlike Windows Vista which has many confusing versions for end-user or consumer to choose, Microsoft expects that a majority of customers will be best served by two primary editions of Windows 7: Windows 7 Home Premium for consumers, and Windows 7 Professional for businesses.

According to Windows General Manager Mike Ybarra when interviewed by PressPass, editions of Windows 7 are a superset of one another. Which means that when customers upgrade from one version to the next, they keep all features and functionality from the previous edition. Besides, different editions of Windows 7 can run on a very broad set of hardware, from small-notebook PCs (sometimes referred to as netbooks) to full gaming desktops.

Generally, 6 editions of Windows 7 will be made available:

  • Windows 7 Starter (only available on pre-installed OEM channel worldwide but limited to new PCs limited to specific types of hardware)
  • Windows 7 Home Basic (only available in emerging markets)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Enterprise (only on Software Assurance or Volume Licensing channel)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate

The brief description of various editions of Windows 7 is listed below.

Windows 7 Starter
Availability: Worldwide, OEM channel, for new PCs limited to specific types of hardware only (netbook)
Key Features: Enhanced Taskbar, Jump Lists, Windows Media Player, Backup and Restore, Action Center, Device Stage, Play To, Fax and Scan, basic games
Limitations: Missing Aero Glass, many Aero desktop enhancements, Windows Touch, Windows Media Center, live thumbnail previews, Windows 7 Mobility Center, Home Group creation features, and can run only three applications at once.

Windows 7 Home Basic
Availability: Emerging market, OEM channel only
Key Features: All features of Windows 7 Starter in addition to advanced networking feature, live thumbnail previews, and Windows Mobility Center.
Limitations: Missing Aero Glass, many Aero desktop enhancements, Aero windows navigation, Windows Touch, Windows Media Center and Home Group creation features.

Windows 7 Home Premium
Availability: Mainstream Windows 7 SKU, worldwide release and available for both OEM and retail channels
Key Features: Aero Glass, Aero Background, Windows Touch, Home Group creation, Media Center, DVD playback and authoring, premium games, in addition to all features of Windows 7 Home Basic.
Limitations: Missing Domain join, Remote Desktop host, advanced backup, EFS, and Offline Folders features

Windows 7 Professional
Availability: Mainly for small businesses, worldwide release, and available in OEM, retail and volume licensing (VL) channels
Key Features: Domain join, Remote Desktop host, location aware printing, EFS, Presentation Mode, Offline Folders, Windows Media Center beside inclusive of all features and functionalities from Windows 7 Home Premium
Limitations: Missing BitLocker, BitLocker To Go, AppLocker, Direct Access, Branche Cache, MUI language packs and boot from VHD abilities or features

Windows 7 Enterprise
Availability: Software Assurance or Volume-License enterprise business customers only
Key Features: BitLocker, BitLocker To Go, AppLocker, Direct Access, Branche Cache, MUI language packs and boot from VHD – basically, all features of Windows 7.

Windows 7 Ultimate
Market: Retail channel or upgrade from Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional UI
Key Features: BitLocker, BitLocker To Go, AppLocker, Direct Access, Branche Cache, MUI language packs and boot from VHD – basically, all features of Windows 7.

Basically, the lineup of Windows 7 product editions is pretty similar to Windows Vista, except some notable changes such as Windows Media Center now been included in Windows 7 Professional (Windows Vista Business edition excludes WMC), and Windows 7 Starter is geared towards netbook market globally, where Windows Vista Starter is meant for low cost PCs in emerging markets.

Similar to Windows Vista, Windows 7 installation DVD media will contain setup files for Windows 7 Ultimate and all its subset versions, and Windows 7 will determine which version and feature to activate upon entering of product key.

Check out the full feature comparison chart for all Windows 7 editions. The pricing for Windows 7 is not determined yet, but there is an uncomfirmed unofficial price list for Windows 7 retail price.

Update: Windows 7 RTM release schedule and launch information

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