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March 07, 2006

The Six Flavors Of Windows Vista

Ultimate Extras

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Ultimate Extras
Windows Vista Ultimate includes a package called Windows Vista Ultimate Extras, which is empty in the February CTP (Community Technology Preview) of Vista. Apparently, the Extras will be offered online via Windows Update, so they can be added at any time by Microsoft. Published reports also state (but I have not verified this yet) that Vista Ultimate adds remote desktop, Internet Information Services (), and scanning and faxing. If this means that Vista Home Premium does not contain remote desktop functionality, it will be a truly annoying limitation.

With the release of the February CTP pre-release version of Windows Vista, beta testers and reviewers will finally be able to install most of the different versions of Vista. So expect more information about the differences between the SKUs in the near future.

(Incidentally, Microsoft has previously said that 64-bit support would be included in the box with most versions of Windows Vista. A statement in the press release, though, implies that there might be separate 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Which is it?)

Following The Fallout
So what's the fallout of the new division of Windows versions? There's a certain logic to what Microsoft is doing. The flavors of Windows Vista will be more distinct than the XP versions, and offer competitive advantages. This will help PC makers differentiate their products, for example, and it might help drive Microsoft's enterprise licensing program.

But for people buying new PCs, the new versioning could create a caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) situation. There will be lots of different versions of Windows that might arrive on a new desktop or standard notebook PC. Where today the choices for most desktops are usually between Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional, under Vista there could be three or four possible choices on consumer and small business PCs. PC buyers will need to watch out that they don't buy too little Vista or too much. However, until we see the actual pricing, it's tough to put the entire picture in focus.

For example, PCs that come with Windows Vista Home Basic should probably sell for well under $500, since they won't truly support the full graphics capability of Windows Vista's new Avalon graphics subsystem, and more than likely their makers will have cut corners on performance and expandability. On the other hand, Home Basic should at least be considered by anyone intending to buy a Vista upgrade for an older PC.

Finally, a nod to Ed Bott for his exploration and outing of Microsoft's plan to make Windows Vista consumer version upgrades available from the Windows Anytime Upgrade Control Panel. The idea behind this is that if you suddenly upgrade your video card and want to take advantage of Aero, for example, you can use this tool to pay for an upgrade via credit card. You would then download it and install it in much the same fashion that millions of Windows XP owners downloaded and installed Windows XP Service Pack 2. Check out for screenshots of part of the Windows Anytime Upgrade process, along with his astute comments.

Reprinted by permission of Scot Finnie. This was adapted from an article that recently appeared in .

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