Windows 7 to come in six versions

Microsoft is to offer six versions of Windows 7 despite being heavily criticised for offering too many confusing options in Vista.

The next operating system from Microsoft will come in two main versions, Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional, targeted at consumers and businesses respectively. Microsoft told reporters that 80 per cent of sales will be comprised of these two versions.

There will also be a Windows 7 Enterprise edition, which will offer advanced data protection and compliance, but will not be available through original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) or retail outlets.

The Windows 7 Home Basic version is for emerging markets, offering what Windows general manager Mike Ybarra called "an entry point Windows experience on a full-size value PC."

There will also be a Windows 7 Starter edition, which will be pre-installed by OEMs on netbooks.

The sixth version will be Windows 7 Ultimate, which will contain every feature from all versions of the new OS. "Windows 7 Ultimate edition is designed for PC enthusiasts who want it all' and customers who want the security features such as BitLocker found in Windows 7 Enterprise edition," said Ybarra.

Unlike Vista, the higher-end versions will include all the features found in their lower-cost counterparts, so users won't lose functionality by upgrading.

"We've received great feedback from customers and partners through Windows XP and Windows Vista, and have learned a lot about how to communicate what's available in different editions of the operating system," said Ybarra.

"At the same time, we have a customer base of over 1 billion along with many partners, so it's important to make sure the right edition of Windows with the right features set is available for them."

Click here to read our review of the Windows 7 Beta.