Like Windows XP Embedded (XPe), Windows Vista will be internally componentized. Componentization has numerous benefits compared with previous development approaches, in which each product version heaped new features on top of the existing code base. With a componentized approach, end users, IT administrators, and PC makers will be able to easily specify which applications and services are installed with each Windows version.

Because desktop OSs have more dependencies than OSs on embedded devices, Vista's customization features aren't as fine-grained as XPe's, which literally lets device makers specify every single feature. In contrast to OSs on embedded devices, which are generally created once and then never changed, desktop OSs are often upgraded and changed by end users and applications.

Vista's componentized nature gives Microsoft and its partners many new capabilities when creating various Windows versions. At the lowest level is what Microsoft calls the base OS component—or MinWin—which is about 95 percent of the total Vista code base. This base OS component is language independent and a subset of all the Vista product editions. Microsoft and its hardware partners (but not customers) can use the base OS to create actual Vista product editions, or SKUs.

For example, to create the English version of Vista Home Basic, Microsoft or its hardware partners would simply add the Home Basic component and the English language component to the base OS component. To create Vista Business (the equivalent of Windows XP Professional Edition), Microsoft or its hardware partners would simply add the Business component and a language component to the base OS component. (Vista Business contains everything that Vista Home Basic does, plus business-specific features.) Because Vista Business is a true superset of Vista Home Basic, it actually builds off of Vista Home Basic internally.