Like Windows Vista, there are too many editions of Windows 7. There are six versions of Windows 7, which in my opinion, is four editions too many. In all fairness, the Windows 7 editions represent a big improvement over Vista, but one version for home users and another for business users would be about right.

The six Windows 7 editions are as follows:

  • Windows 7 Starter Edition. Only available pre-installed on new PCs by OEMs, the Starter Edition isn't anything you want. It can't run the Aero UI and it's limited to running only three applications at once. This edition seems more like a nonstarter—even on netbooks, where it's ostensibly targeted.
  • Windows 7 Home Basic Edition. Only available pre-installed on new PCs by OEMs, the Home Basic Edition also isn't desirable. It removes the three-application limitation of the Starter Edition but still has no Aero UI, Internet Connection Sharing, or Windows Media Center capabilities. This edition will only be available in emerging markets like China, India, Mexico, and Thailand. It won't be available in the USA, most of Europe, or Australia.
  • Windows 7 Home Premium Edition. Available through both retail channels and from OEMs the Home Premium Edition is the version of Windows 7 that home users and consumers should get. The Home Premium Edition includes Aero Glass, Windows Media Center and it can create and participate in Home Group networking. It cannot join domains or be managed with GP.
  • Windows 7 Professional Edition. Available through both retail channels and from OEMs, the Professional Edition is intended for business professionals. However, they'll probably want the Ultimate Edition. The Professional Edition supports domain join, Group Policy management, Remote Desktop, EFS Presentation Mode and Offline Folders. It's questionable why features like BitLocker aren't in this edition.
  • Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. Available only to Software Assurance (SA) customers, the Enterprise Edition is a superset of the Professional Edition and possesses the full Windows 7 feature set. The Enterprise Edition has features such as Direct Access, BranchCache, AppLocker, BitLocker, BitLocker ToGo, and boot from VHD.
  • Windows 7 Ultimate Edition. Available through both retail channels and from OEMs, the Ultimate Edition contains the same feature set as the Enterprise Edition. The only difference is that non-SA customers can buy it. I expect that most customers buying retail copies and most business without SA agreements will opt to buy the Ultimate Edition to get the features they want.