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When Windows Vista first came out, there were many complaints about its price. Then there were complaints about how Media Center was included in Vista Home Premium, but missing from the more expensive Business Edition.

Compatibility problems and misleading hardware specification led to Microsoft being sued over its "Vista Capable" labeling.

Microsoft claims to have learned from the Vista experience. "We broke a lot of things. We know that, and we know it caused you a lot of pain. It got customers thinking, hey, is Windows Vista a generation we want to get invested in?" said Brad Brooks, Corporate Vice-President for Windows Consumer Product Marketing.

With its new "Russian Doll" model of linearly progressing features, Microsoft thinks its new lineup of six editions will meet a wide range of consumer usage models. All versions of Windows 7 include Internet Explorer 8 and DirectX 11, as well as improved multi-core processing.

With improved boot times and overall system responsiveness through all versions, Microsoft believes these engineering investments will allow small netbook PCs to run any version of Windows 7, and allow customers the flexibility to purchase a system which meets their needs.  It has also improved support and optimizations for Solid State Drives, targeting both netbooks and notebooks.

Expanded features were requested by corporations for the Enterprise Edition. Virtual Desktop Infrastructure allows Windows 7 to be run as a virtual machine. Branch Cache is a file caching option for branch offices of large corporations, designed to reduce access times to centrally managed files. DirectAccess is designed for corporate networks based on Windows Server 2008 R2, which is the server version of Windows 7. AppLocker is a centrally managed, rule-based group policy program for specifying which applications can run. Enterprise Search was designed as a highly secure, manageable, server-based search system. It enables users to search remote document repositories, SharePoint sites, and Web applications.
 
Windows 7's Search Federation uses an Open Source standard named OpenSearch. Users can select which sites are available for searching, or the IT department can populate the list by using Group Policy. The search results are presented in Windows explorer much like local files, with rich views, file details, and previews.

The data for all editions is contained on a single DVD. This allows an electronic upgrade to be accomplished quickly, once Microsoft sends the electronic authorization to your computer. Theoretically, you can upgrade from the Starter edition to the Ultimate edition within fifteen minutes.

Microsoft sees the sales of the Windows 7 product lineup in a bell curve. The vast majority of sales will be Home Premium for consumers and Professional for businesses and enthusiasts. The majority of Windows sales will be 64-bit, with over 75% of total sales through OEM installations.

However, the true value of Windows 7 can only be determined when compared against its cost. Microsoft has not yet released any pricing information.

Update: The table should now show properly for most browsers.
Update Feb 10: Added Advanced Network Backup

Windows 7 Version

Starter

Home Basic

Home Premium

Professional

Enterprise

Ultimate

Sales Channels

OEM  (Global)

Developing
Countries Only

Retail and OEM (Global)

Volume License

Retail/OEM (Limited)

64-Bit Support

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Concurrent Applications

3

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Mobility Center

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Aero Features

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Home Groups

Join Only

Join Only

Create/Join

Create/Join

Create/Join

Create/Join

Premium Games

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Windows Media Center

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Windows Touch

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Advanced Network Backup

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Domain Joining

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Encrypting File System

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Group Policy

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Location Aware Printing

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Offline Folders

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Presentation Mode

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Remote Desktop Host

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

AppLocker

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

BitLocker

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Branch Cache

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Direct Access

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Enterprise Search

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

MUI Language Packs

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Virtual Desktop Interface

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Virtual Hard Disk Booting

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Unspecified
Features

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

 





"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton
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