I opened the Sunday paper today to ad upon ad for Windows Vista. In fact, some stores were going to stay open till midnight Monday, January 29 in order for you to be one of the first to get your copy of Vista. PLEASE! It’s not like this is a new game release. Furthermore, while I was once excited about Vista, I am dismayed about how Microsoft has gone out of its way not only to make purchasing Vista confusing, but also the price gouging associated with it.

According to my handy dandy sale ads from the Sunday paper, here is what I have to choose from:
·    Windows Vista Business Full $299.00
·    Windows Vista Business Upgrade $199.99
·    Windows Vista Home Basic $199.99
·    Windows Vista Home Upgrade $99.99
·    Windows Vista Home Premium $239.99
·    Windows Vista Home Premium Upgrade $159.99
·    Windows Vista Ultimate Bill Gates Limited Edition $259.00 (I kid you not! This is for real)

Unbelievable! And then they go and release the new version(s) of Office at the same time. I’m not even going to go into those versions, but suffice it to say, it just adds to the confusion.

Now what in the heck do all these versions mean?

Windows Home Basic is a warmed over Windows XP Home with less features! In fact, after reviewing the features compared with XP, this is a step backwards for most people.

Windows Home Premium puts back most of the features you found in Windows XP Home SP2 (except faxing capability) and gives you a supposedly more stable OS and better graphics with Windows Aero (assuming you have the video card and horsepower to support it). Again, most people running XP at home (particularly XP Media Center) have the same or more features at the moment than if they installed this edition.

Windows Vista Business is essentially Windows Home Premium EXCLUDING DVD Maker, Media Center, and other goodies, in exchange for group policy support and roaming profiles and the ability to scan and fax!

Windows Vista Ultimate is the whole kit and caboodle that Vista can offer; however, I cannot imagine what extras come in the Bill Gates Limited Edition. Perhaps some stock options?

Here is an excellent chart that you can refer to compare the various versions available to the home and small business buyers:  It is also no coincidence that the advertisements for the new OS sit side by side with ads for RAM upgrades, video card upgrades, and hard drive upgrades. Vista is a hungry OS and wants a fast processor, lots of RAM, and lots of wiggle room. This is not an OS that you are going to plop on your old P4 machine and expect it to purr like a kitten. Not to mention that if you have a lot of legacy equipment strung on to your PC, there is a strong likelihood that there is not a Vista driver ready for it. So upgraders beware!

Speaking of upgrading–be prepared for the words “clean install” as the upgrade path to Vista can be complicated. Check out the following matrix from Microsoft:

Please note all the Yellow Dots in the matrix that require a clean install and also note that there is no way to upgrade from Windows 2000 without a clean install. Also note that if you are still running Windows 98 for some reason, upgrade pricing is not available to you.

Frankly, when I was shown a sneak peak at Vista from Microsoft several months ago, I was pretty pumped about the OS. However, what I was shown at the time was the Ultimate version and the Enterprise edition. At the time, the various versions of the product had not been discussed nor had the pricing been revealed.

Now that Vista is out, I am disappointed. As a home user, I would not consider anything less than Premium or Ultimate (or I would lose functionality) and the price vs. performance/functionality gain is not appealing enough until I require DirectX 10.

As a business user, Enterprise edition does offer some nice functionality for the enterprise, particularly regarding PC management.  However, as I have not yet engaged in pricing of the Enterprise edition, I can’t say if the features I get with the newer edition warrants replacing XP with 3rd party tools that give you equivalent functionality.

Lastly though, I am disappointed in Microsoft’s confusing marketing campaign, the fact that there really ought to be only two editions Ultimate and Enterprise, and saddened by the fact that for many of us, because Microsoft is a monopoly, that there will be no choice in the matter over time.

As a business user, you will eventually be forced into Vista if you wish to maintain a Microsoft environment.  However, organizations can and should use this time to re-evaluate Linux and Mac alternatives.

Home users that ONLY surf, do some multimedia, office stuff and the like, have the same decision and should also make the same investigation into Linux and Mac.

Gamers however are pretty much out of luck. If they wish to continue to run the latest release of new games, they will eventually have to upgrade–unless the gaming software industry starts to finally code for Linux or Mac with the same dedication they do for Windows.

In any case, you did not find me standing in line on Monday night at the computer store waiting for the clock to strike twelve to grab my copy of Vista. I was sleeping–Bill Gates Limited Edition be damned!