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February 4, 2009

A closer look at the Windows 7 SKUs

Today, I wanted to take a closer look at the Windows 7 SKUs since there has been some discussion about them for the last couple of days. By the end of this post, I want you to know exactly which edition of Windows 7 is right for you and help you understand how we approached addressing the large amount of feedback we received.

Our SKU line-up is based on listening to feedback from customers and partners and here is what they have told us and how we are addressing their feedback in Windows 7:

1. Customers wanted clarity on which version of Windows is the right version for them.  So…Windows 7 will be offered primarily in 2 editions: Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional.

2. Customers wanted upgrading to a different SKU to be easier.  So…for Windows 7, we are using a single image for all SKUs. This means the bits for all the editions are already on your computer if you are running Windows 7.  With Windows Anytime Upgrade, users can unlock and upgrade to a different SKU much easier than before.

3. Customers did not like losing features when upgrading to a different SKU.  So…in Windows 7, each SKU is a superset of the previous SKU. No features are lost on upgrade.

4. One size does not fit all—particularly with a billion users and thousands of partners around the world.  So…we are addressing the specialized needs for customers in specific markets with Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, and Windows 7 Enterprise.

Let me dive a little deeper into these 4 areas and what it means for you.

Our marketing efforts, when they begin for Windows 7, will reflect an emphasis on Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional. With the continued hardware advancements made since the launch of Windows Vista, we think 80% of end users will choose one of these two SKUs.

  • Windows 7 Home Premium: Recommended Choice for Consumers
  • Windows 7 Professional: Recommended Choice for Enthusiasts and Small Business Customers

Essentially, when Windows 7 hits store shelves consumers will see Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional as the choice they will need to make.

We also make it easy for customers to change down the road. So let’s say I purchase Windows 7 Home Premium and want to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional. With Windows Anytime Upgrade I can, as it makes upgrading to another version of Windows 7 much easier now that we have a single image for every SKU. Users will be able to unlock upgraded editions of Windows 7 without original media or additional software as everything they need in order to upgrade will be on their PC already.

Because each SKU is a superset of the previous SKU for Windows 7 that means each higher edition SKU will also include every feature the lower edition SKUs has. Windows 7 Professional will have every feature that Windows 7 Home Premium has plus other business-oriented features such as the ability to join a domain.

Not every customer has the same needs. In general, we discovered that most think we should have about 2 or 3 SKUs but there isn’t much agreement what “the right” SKUs should be. So we are accommodating specialized needs for customers in specific markets. You could also think of these as niche offerings. A small percentage “niche” (like 2%) of the overall customer base is still many millions. That feels pretty big to me and we wanted to make sure we had the right solutions for them. We think it is important to respond to the needs, so we have:

  • Windows 7 Starter: Something that our OEM partners asked for is to have an offering for folks that will do very limited things with their PCs and for PCs with limited hardware capabilities. Windows 7 Starter only allows up to 3 applications to run at once. This is something that will be offered only through OEM partners.
  • Windows 7 Home Basic: Another offering that our OEMs asked for was a basic offering on Value PCs in emerging markets. This is something that will also only be available through OEM partners. 
  • Windows 7 Enterprise: An offering asked for by our best and largest enterprise customers which has all the advanced security and manageability capabilities which also includes BitLocker data protection. This is something available only through Volume License agreements. 

And, for those who want everything we have Windows 7 Ultimate.

Many of you have been asking about how to think about SKUs and very low-end notebook PCs or “Netbooks”. All SKUs of Windows 7 will work on many of these devices, with Windows 7 Home Premium as the recommend SKU on small notebook PCs with sufficient hardware. I have a Dell Mini 9 running the Windows 7 Beta (which is Windows 7 Ultimate) just fine. Brad Brooks, Corporate Vice President for Windows Consumer Product Marketing, talks more about Windows 7 on Netbooks here in this Q&A with Microsoft PressPass.

Today, 1 billion customers use Windows and the needs of our customers span a wide range. We have been listening and learning to make sure we are addressing the full range of needs while simplifying/clarifying the choices.  Our SKU strategy reflects Windows 7’s ability to work well on a variety of PCs as well as meets the needs of our customers.

So which edition of Windows 7 fits your needs? I expect for the majority of you it will be either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional. For me, I think Windows 7 Professional looks perfect for my needs.

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