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Microsoft Simplifies Windows 7 SKUs (Sort Of)

Microsoft plans to make life easier for customers by simplifying the SKU structure for Windows 7 and adding a SKU designed specifically for netbooks.

SKU

In a Q&A posted Tuesday to Microsoft's Web site, Windows General Manager Mike Ybarra said Microsoft expects two Windows 7 SKUs -- Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional -- to fit the needs of the majority of customers.

Windows 7 Home Premium is aimed at consumers, while Windows 7 Professional is designed for home offices and small businesses that have greater security needs, according to Ybarra. "For those running Windows Vista Business, it will be a very logical move to Windows 7 Professional," he said.

Windows 7 Starter is a stripped-down version that will be available only for OEMs to preload on netbooks, and users will only be able to run three applications simultaneously.

Microsoft will offer Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7, but will limit availability of Windows 7 Home Basic to emerging markets, Ybarra said. "Within a customer base of over one billion, there are a lot of important customer niches, or segments, and we want to make sure we have an appropriate product for everybody," Ybarra said.

Microsoft isn't yet ready to reveal what it plans to charge for any of the Windows 7 SKUs, Ybarra said.

One common gripe Microsoft channel partners had with Windows Vista was that the six core Vista SKUs were confusing to many customers. Channel partners feel the move to position two SKUs for most users is a shrewd one on Microsoft's part.

"This will really help consumers and corporate customers to easily identify which flavor of Windows 7 they need to purchase," said James Huang, director of marketing at Amax IT, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder. "For system builders, this also means fewer logistical headaches, since we don't need to stock as many SKUs as before."

In a separate Q&A, Brad Brooks, corporate vice president for Windows Consumer Product Marketing, said that while Windows 7 Starter edition is designed for netbooks, Microsoft has made many engineering improvements in Windows 7 that allow any of the versions to run well on netbooks.

In addition to a smaller OS footprint, Windows 7 features a better user interface, speedier boot and shutdown times; better power management and battery life; and overall improvements to reliability, stability and security, Brooks said in the Q&A.

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