Microsoft Corp. said it will heavily promote two main versions of the next Windows operating system in an attempt to avoid the problems it faced by marketing four tiers of the Windows Vista system.
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But while the Redmond-based company said Tuesday it will simplify its message, it did not give up the multitiered approach with Windows 7, which is officially expected at the end of January 2010. All told, there will be at least six different versions.
Microsoft said the primary version for consumers will be called Windows 7 Home Premium, and the one for businesses will be called Windows 7 Professional. Prices have not yet been disclosed.
In addition, it will sell two lower-end versions, Home Basic and Starter edition, to PC makers. The Home Basic edition is intended for sale in developing countries, while computer makers can install the Starter edition on PCs intended for sale anywhere in the world. Neither sport the sleeker appearance introduced with Vista, which is getting a makeover in Windows 7.
The company will also sell a top-end Enterprise version for big corporate customers and a similar Ultimate version for consumers. Those versions will include security features and a few other tools not available in the two main versions.
When Microsoft started widely selling Windows Vista in January 2007, it offered four options: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business and Ultimate. Some people who purchased Home Basic complained that they did not realize it lacked the updated user interface.
In the months before Vista was released, Microsoft and PC maker partners promoted certain computers as capable of running the new system. They were disappointed to learn that while their new machines could be upgraded to run the dialed-back Home Basic, they were not powerful enough for the better-looking Home Premium or Ultimate versions, which led to a class action lawsuit.
Microsoft said in a statement that changes to the way it communicates about Windows 7 should "make these choices as simple and clear as possible for customers and partners."
Microsoft also said all versions of Windows 7 will run well on netbooks, a fast-growing category of small, low-powered laptops meant mostly for surfing the Web and checking e-mail.