How many versions of Windows Vista will there be?

We try to make a bit of sense about all the purported versions of Windows Vista.

In the article "Pondering the future Windows Vista product line," I talked about the rumors that were circulating at that time that there were nine different versions of Windows Vista. They were really only rumors and Microsoft was saying nothing official on the subject.

However, last week Microsoft temporarily and accidentally posted a page on its site that appeared to be a test for the online version of the Windows Vista Help system. The main thing that that grabbed people's attention on that page was a list of the various versions of Vista. Although only eight were listed, news sites that are regularly following the Vista evolution are still reporting the likelihood that there will indeed be nine versions.

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Of course, the page stirred up the Windows community, and I've seen lots of negative and acerbic comments on forums and newsgroups regarding the confusing number of versions. I've decided to revisit this topic myself, and see if I can't make a bit more sense out of it all.

Separating the wheat from chaff

For the sake of argument, let's stick with the idea that there will indeed be nine versions of Windows Vista when the operating system ships later this year. If your're in the U.S., you can eliminate three versions right away:

  • Windows Starter 2007 is designed for emerging markets in countries where Microsoft is trying to reduce piracy by providing an affordable, but limited, version of the OS.
  • Windows Vista Home Basic N and Windows Vista Business N will be available only in Europe. The versions are required by an antitrust ruling.
  • This leaves six versions from which to choose:

  • Vista Home Basic
  • Vista Home Premium
  • Vista Business
  • Vista Small Business Edition
  • Vista Enterprise
  • Vista Ultimate
    • Of the remaining six versions, three are for business use and three are for home use. Business usersHaving only three versions of the Vista OS in each category greatly simplifies your decision process. Obviously, the Small Business Edition is specifically designed for small businesses that don't have an IT staff. Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise are the versions, you would most want to research for a larger organization.

      From an IT perspective, if you're currently running Windows XP Professional and are completely satisfied with how it fits into your IT infrastructure, then chances are you'll choose Windows Vista Business. If you need more out of a client-side operating system and already are participating in Microsoft's Software Assurance program, then chances are that you'll choose Windows Vista Enterprise.

      Home users

      On the consumer side, general users would be choosing between Home Basic and Home Premium, because the Vista Ultimate version fcombines features of both and is specifically aimed at the very knowledgeable, high-end PC user. From a consumer perspective, if all you want to do is safely use the Internet, create documents, and, play a few games, then Windows Vista Home Basic is perfect for you. If you want to want to do everything I've just listed, but you also want to take full advantage of PC-based multimedia entertainment features, have multiple computers in your home, and need more advanced home networking features, then you'll want to choose Windows Vista Home Premium.


      So as you can see, once you take some time to break down the number of versions of Windows Vista, it's really not that confusing. However, keep in mind that even though Vista's official release date is slated for later this year, some of the information about the various Windows Vista versions may change between now and the official release date. As always, if you have comments or information to share about the nine versions of Windows Vista and the way that I've sorted them out, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.

About Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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