Well, the Microsoft marketing machine is in full swing again. I can only imagine the despair of MS engineers when they see what the marketing guys do to their creations. It’s recently been announced that Vista will appear in no less than six variations - that’s right, six. Now, we all know that market partitioning is one of the oldest tricks in the book for extracting the maximum revenue from your customers (latin: Bovinus Cashius), but this raises it to a truly art form.
At the bottom of the pile, there’s Vista Starter - that’s the crippled version that can only run 3 applications at once that they hope to sell to developing countries. My bet - said developing countries will either pirate the full version or use Linux instead.
Then, there are 2 versions of Vista Home, Basic and Premium. It seems the Basic edition won’t feature the Aero Glass interface, so is notionally a nod towards those that don’t want to be forced to upgrade their hardware. Fair enough, except that when they do, they’ll have to pay again if they want that new interface, and they’ll also be missing out on several media features of Premium. So, not much of a deal there then.
Then there are 2 versions for business, Vista Business and Vista Enterprise. The latter will include virtualisation it seems, allowing you to run separate VMs on a single server without buying a separate product. How the result compares to VMWare et al remains to be seen.
Finally, there’s Vista Ultimate. I’m not sure what features this has over the others, there are only vague statements about it including both business-focussed and home/media focussed features in a single box, effectively combining Home Premium and Enterprise. Also presumably you can rest assured you are at the top of the Windows food chain if you buy this one, and can cast derisive glances at lesser mortals who are not.
There are also a couple of other Media Player-less versions to placate the EU Commission, but those are pretty irrelevant.
So, there you have it. The question is, how can you choose? Personally, since I use my machine for both business and pleasure, Ultimate sounds like the only one that would satisfy all my requirements, but I guarantee the price tag won’t be to my liking. Apparantly Business will be the same price(ish) as XP Pro, Home Basic the same as XP Home, and I assume Home Premium will be somewhere in the middle. Ultimate will likely be somewhere in the upper atmosphere then. It’s all very confusing.
I think the end result of this will be much consumer confusion, and a purchasing of versions that are inappropriate for changing needs, resulting in either overpurchasing ‘just in case’, or repeated purchasing as usage changes, both of which I’m sure Microsoft will be very happy with, but consumers will, I’m sure, not be. Such a regimented, restrictive approach to product versions seems very much a step backwards in todays world of rapidly changing, dynamic computer usage patterns. I thought the modern computing world was supposed to be about access everywhere, flexibility of usage, always-on, ubiquitous computing, a modern utopia of harmony between computing and man,a glorious fusion of vision and reality, yadda yadda. Putting every type of usage in a separate little box is so 1990’s. It all seems like a cynical money extraction scheme to me, and absolutely nothing at all to do with consumer requirements, no matter how the hordes of MS VPs try to spin it.
I can say the same thing about the announcement that Halo 2 will be finally released on PC, but only for Vista. Because, of course, Halo 2 cannot possibly run on anything other than the latest OS. Oh, except that it was running on a DirectX 8.1 based Windows 2000 derivative 2 years ago. Doesn’t really stack up, does it? Nor does this.