An examination of Microsoft internal documentation this weekend revealed that the software giant is prepping several major end-user features for Windows Vista (code-named Longhorn), many of which had not yet been revealed. Here's a rundown of many of the features we can expect in the various Vista product editions.
Microsoft is creating seven versions of Vista for end users (nine if you count the N Editions that will target European markets). To differentiate these products, the company is carefully matching feature sets to the expected markets that will adopt each product version.
Two low-end versions of the product, Vista Starter Edition and Vista Home Basic Edition, won't feature the much-vaunted Aero UI that will adorn all the other Vista versions. Instead, these versions will use a lower-quality, XP-like UI that's more appropriate for the low-end hardware that infrequent PC users and emerging markets might use. Vista Starter and Vista Home Basic will also lack the rolodex, tab previews, and task bar preview features that other Vista editions will offer.
A new version of Microsoft IIS, to be called Microsoft Windows Web Server, will be included only with the business-oriented versions (Vista Professional, Professional N, Small Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions). These versions will also include other unique features, such as a Windows fax client and the ability to join an Active Directory (AD) domain. However, Vista Home Premium will be able to join new home-oriented domains offered by a new Longhorn Server version that's code-named Quattro.
On the digital media front, Vista Home Premium and all the business-oriented versions will feature DVD authoring, Windows Movie Maker High Definition (HD) publishing, advanced photography features such as fine-grain editing, and premium games such as 3D Chess and Shanghai Solitaire. Home Premium and Ultimate will feature integrated Media Center functionality and, crucially, the ability to act as software-based Media Center Extenders (code-named Softsled). All editions except the N Editions will include a new version of Windows Media Player (WMP).
How about mobility? Home Premium and all the business-oriented Vista versions will include Tablet PC functionality, will support auxiliary displays, and will include mobility-oriented features such as the Mobility Center and PC-to-PC sync.
On the business front, Vista Enterprise Edition and Vista Ultimate Edition will include the new Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications (SUA) and single-session Virtual PC (for backward-compatibility with legacy applications) as optional installations. Both editions will also support the Secure Startup-Full Volume Encryption security technologies (code-named Cornerstone), which are the start of Microsoft's Palladium push.
One feature I don't quite understand is Windows Activation Services. According to the documentation I've reviewed, the business-oriented versions of Vista won't include this technology but the home-oriented versions will. I'll try to dig around for more information.
Microsoft has released a lot more information, which I've pulled into a comprehensive table for the SuperSite for Windows. See the article "Windows Vista Product Editions Preview."