Windows 7 to come in many delicious flavors

One of the most widely-criticized (and easily mockable) points of Windows Vista was the great variety of editions it came in. You’d think they’d want to avoid that same debacle this time around, and keep the avalanche of good grassroots PR about Windows 7 rolling. But no, they had to go and let it be known that they’re going to have six different versions of the anticipated OS.

Hey, it worked for Otter Pops.

So what do we have here? There are extended descriptions here, if you’re that interested.

  • Starter: Only sold with new PCs. For “emerging markets,” whatever that means. Basically the core system without any of the eye candy, desktop enhancements, or extra security features. Limited to three concurrent applications (what!)
  • Home Basic: Starter with more than three apps allowed.
  • Home Premium: This one will have the eye candy and will be the one included on most PCs. It’s missing the extended security and mobility features of…
  • Professional: Everything in Premium, plus encryption and network features more business-oriented.
  • Enterprise: Like Professional, but more so. Includes Bitlocker and Applocker among other system-management capabilities that would be handy in a volume-license situation.
  • Ultimate: Everything included, but won’t be widely available; “a tiny, tiny percentage of the volume” according to the source.

It looks like a lot — and actually, it is — but when you think about it, people will only have to choose between Home Premium and Professional. Starter is for selling to netbook manufacturers and such, Enterprise is for big businesses, and Ultimate is kind of an experiment they’re doing.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the line-up won’t be confusing to consumers, but Microsoft is planning on playing down the very existence of Starter, Enterprise and Ultimate in their marketing, since those editions don’t apply to the consumer demographic they’re aiming at.

Update: Added Home basic and Starter restrictions.