Windows Vista Editions--there's only one real choice

by  Greg Shultz   | Tech Republic |  12/6/06

Takeaway: Greg Shultz looks at the what features each Windows Vista choice has to offer.

Back in February, I explored the rumor that Microsoft was planning on releasing nine editions of Windows Vista. Now that we're on the eve of Microsoft's official release, it turns out that there will actually be only eight editions of Windows Vista. But, for most of us serious Windows users there will only be one choice.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll sift through the eight editions of Windows Vista. As I do, I'll explain why I'm of the opinion that there is only one real choice when it comes to the Windows Vista editions. The eight editions are:

You can't touch this

Right off the bat, you can remove Windows Vista Home Basic N and Windows Vista Business N from your list of choices. These two editions of the operating system will only be available in the European Union and are stripped of all Windows Media-related technologies by decree of an antitrust ruling. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find any mention at all of the so called "N" editions on Microsoft's site.

You can also remove Windows Vista Starter because, according to Microsoft, "Windows Vista Starter is not currently scheduled to be available in the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, or other high income markets as defined by the World Bank."

You can even remove Windows Vista Enterprise from your list of choices. This edition will only be available through volume licensing deals for large organizations participating in Microsoft's Software Assurance program--it will not be available via the retail chain. As such, if you work at a large organization, chances are you'll be using Windows Vista Enterprise.

The final four

As you can see, we're now quickly down to four choices. And in fact, when you go to the store on January 30, 2007 these are the four editions that you will see on the shelves. These four editions are shown in Table B along with suggested retail pricing information.

Table B: The four primary editions
Windows Vista Edition Full Package Price Upgrade Package Price
Home Basic $199.00
Home Premium $239.00
Business $299.00
Ultimate $399.00

I'm going to follow through with my target audience of serious Windows users and assume that you already own a copy of Windows XP and will be purchasing the upgrade package. I'm also going to assume that as a serious Windows user, your current system can be considered Windows Vista Premium Ready:

Let's focus on the price jumps as we move from the lowest to the most expensive of the four remaining Windows Vista editions. While getting a brand new operating system for under $100 may sound like a good deal, it costs just $59.05 to move up one level to Home Premium. It costs only $40.00 to move up from Home Premium to Business. To move from Business to Ultimate costs $60.00.

(Keep in mind that right now I'm just looking at the base price differences here--I'm not talking about the costs associated with the Windows Anytime Upgrade feature. At this time, the Windows Anytime Upgrade pricing structure is still under wraps.)

The elimination round

At this point, I'm going to throw Windows Vista Business out of the mix, for the simple fact that it has a very precise target audience. If you're going to be rolling out Windows Vista in a small- to medium-sized business and aren't participating in Microsoft's Software Assurance program, then you're going to use Windows Vista Business because it has everything you need for business computing and comes at a very reasonable price for a business.

Since Home Basic is the cheapest and Ultimate is the most expensive--and if the old adage "you get what you pay for" holds true--we can safely assume that Home Basic has nothing when it comes to the cool Vista features and that Ultimate has everything. In fact, this holds true when you look at the feature sets. Home Basic doesn't include Windows Aero, Flip 3D, or Live Taskbar Thumbnails, just to name a few, and Ultimate includes everything. Using that reasoning, we can throw out Home Basic.

So now it comes down to a choice between Home Premium and Ultimate editions. Here, the feature sets are very closely matched. In fact, Home Premium includes Windows Aero, Flip 3D, Live Taskbar Thumbnails and most of the cool Windows Vista features found in Ultimate. However, Home Premium doesn't include the Complete PC Backup imaging tool nor does it include the BitLocker drive encryption feature. While I'm only naming two here, these are highly prized Vista features that you definitely will want to take advantage of. And when it comes right down to it, for $100 more than the cost of Home Premium, you can get Ultimate and have everything that Windows Vista has to offer.


As I see it, when it comes to the feature set and the price, the Windows Vista Ultimate edition is the only choice for serious Windows users.