Coming to the completely opposite conclusion on Windows versions

Date:September 22, 2005 / year-entry #274
Orig Link:
Comments:    22
Summary:When I discussed why there is no all-encompassing superset version of Windows, people somehow interpreted this as an explanation of why there are so many versions of Windows Vista. I guess these people never even made it past the title of the article, which argues for fewer Windows versions, not more! Besides, the article talked...

When I discussed why there is no all-encompassing superset version of Windows, people somehow interpreted this as an explanation of why there are so many versions of Windows Vista. I guess these people never even made it past the title of the article, which argues for fewer Windows versions, not more! Besides, the article talked about the server side of Windows, not the workstation side. The target audiences for servers are very different from the target audiences for workstations. (At least some people were able to follow my point.)

The list of Windows Vista versions was news to me as much as it was news to you. It's not like everybody tells me what's going on at this company, or that I'd have the time to keep up on it if they did! (There's so much going on here, I can't even keep track of what my colleagues on the shell team are doing, and they work on my hallway! When I want Windows news, I turn to Paul Thurrott just like everybody else.) At least it appears that the people who want the all-encompassing superset version of Windows Vista Workstation will have their wish with the "Ultimate" plan.

Comments (22)
  1. Where can I find such a similar comparison between XP and 2003 Server ?

  2. Andy C says:

    Well there were basically two ways of reading your previous blog entry, the "Why not add another version of Windows with everything?", which is what you intended or the "Why isn’t Windows like Linux where you get everything and have to know which bits you don’t want?"

    Of course the real answer is that you aren’t paying for Linux and so there is no cost saving by getting a version with something missing – a mentality which has lead to very bloated distributions shipping on half a dozen DVDs.

    Windows Vista Ultimate just sounds like a bad idea to me, trying to appeal to a bunch of people that will never truly be satisfied until everything is difficult enough that they can once again feel superior for being able to understand it (even when they don’t). Time, as ever, will tell I guess…

  3. Matt says:

    How about we go back to the good old days of plain Server and Workstation?

    More seriously, the explosion of Vista editions seems a very bad idea from the consumer perspective to me. It’s going to lead to a lot of anger when the average consumer buys edition n, only to find out the a feature they want or need is in n+1. Even if they cough up for the upgrade it’s entirely possible they’ll want or need another feature that’s only in edition n+2 or above.

    You’ll need 10 or 15 reasonably priced and easily accessible versions of upgrade to accomodate that scenario. That’s 16 editions all up (6 full package and 10 upgrade) – a recipe for horrible consumer confusion and very angry customers.

    It’s hard enough for some consumers to tell you what version of Windows they’ve got, let alone what edition.

  4. Syz says:

    I sure hope somebody comes to their senses before it gets too late on this. As it is now, I have a hard time remembering which features are stripped out of XP Home edition. Seven different versions of Vista (and that’s just on the workstation side) sounds like a recipe for consumer confusion, and a nightmare for Product Support.

  5. smelliot says:

    Another question I’m running into is why I can’t have Windows XXWhatever with media center and tablet functionality?

    That is- why aren’t media center (seemingly a few services and an exe) and the tablet functionality simply add-in’s?

  6. Mike Dunn says:

    I’m wondering how many QA people contemplated a change of career once they realized how their test matrixes were about to explode due to all the OS versions.

  7. AC says:

    So, Microsoft plans a LOT of different versions of the next version of Windows, called Vista, and all with different prices:

    "In the Business category, there will are three editions: Windows Vista Small Business Edition, Windows Vista Professional Edition (previously known as Professional Standard Edition), and Windows Vista Enterprise Edition (previously known as Professional Premium Edition)."

    The potential danger is if somebody "subscribes" now with XP Professional later gets the Professional and not the Enterprise version? I can’t believe they will do this if the subscription is now called "Enterprise".

    MSFT already makes the new products in a way that the new features have to be additionally paid for, even if somebody thought that he is currently subscribed to "everything". For example, the Visual Studio 2005 has a lot of new different versions, but the most expensive one is *NOT* included for "Universal" MSDN subscribers (although at the time "Universal" was advertised, it was supposed to mean "everything MSFT makes"):

    They are also introducing the new per client (CAL) licenses to be paid to connect to these new team software share points etc. So they really like to charge more per client for each new feature they add to the existing products. :)

    The same trick (new price for new features) is that they plan "Vista Home Premium" (which really sounds like "more money than what you pay now for XP Home") which has the new Aero UI, whereas the "Vista Home Basic" is without the new UI. The developers wouldn’t be able to assume that some UI feature exists on all "Vistas".

    So it can be expected that even when a "subscription" deal with them is now made, the features received now are everything to be received even with the "new" versions of the products, unless the new features are additionally paid for when they appear. And it seems that the "new features" can even mean support for the newer hardware(!): there are features marked "Opt" even in the most expensive Pro versions (for example in the "Tablet" row) which can possibly mean that they plan to demand the additional money for that too. That can mean that even if the customer just changes the hardware (from normal notebook to the tablet, which is just a notebook with a touch sensitive screen) they’ll have the chance to make him pay for that.

  8. Antonio says:

    Why not having ONE version with everything on the CD or DVD AND have a decent installer that let’s the user choose whatever he needs installed, just like things used to be way back in Win 3.x or even Win 95???

    I really think there’s no technical reason for going with several different editions, it’s just a marketing driven decision, as they’ll be able to charge far more for the Ultimate or Enterprise whatever editions!

  9. John Dowdell says:

    <em>"When I discussed why there is no all-encompassing superset version of Windows, people somehow interpreted this as an explanation of why there are so many versions of Windows Vista."</em>

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t *think* I came to "the completely opposite conclusion"…. ;-)

    (I thought you raised a good point, and I pointed others to your observations in case they were also in discussions on "Why were so many Vista packagings announced?")

  10. Cheong says:


    Here’s where the value of .NET framework comes in. As long as you only use the "standard functions" given by the framework, you don’t need to care about compatiability problem. Even if there is, submit the report to MS and let someone knows better fix it. :)

    And when I’m making the above comment, I can also sense the hell for VM developers now… :P

  11. Norman Diamond says:

    When I want Windows news, I turn to Paul

    > Thurrott just like everybody else.

    Oh neat, so technology isn’t the only thing that Microsoft inherited from DEC.

    Thursday, September 22, 2005 12:25 PM by smelliot

    > That is- why aren’t media center (seemingly

    > a few services and an exe) and the tablet

    > functionality simply add-in’s?

    Because that would provide too big an opportunity for other companies. Do you really want some future Netscape or Real to have a chance of surviving?

  12. Ray says:

    What I don’t understand is: given the very limiting/crippled nature of the Starter Edition, why would anyone in the "emergent" countries want to bother to pay for it?

    I mean, hey, you pay, and you get a crippled product that allows you 3 concurrent apps and all kinds of limitations.

    You go to Ubuntu Linux website, you tell them to send you, and you’ll be able to give this to your whole school for free.

    I just can’t imagine anyone would be so stupid as to pay it. If it were me I would just stick to my (presumably) pirated copy of (2000, xp, whatever), or use Linux, which is getting easier and easier to use.

  13. Microsoft Bob says:

    Wow, a lot of people are forgetting that the majority of people don’t, never have, and never will, buy an OS. There will be no mass rioting in the streets with thousands of people angry and confused because they don’t know what version of Vista to buy.

    There aren’t really too many versions anyway IMO. Immediately split off the 3 ‘pro’ versions – they’re for companies only, and they’ll have an IT dept to deal with these things. Ignore the Home/Pro N versions – only exists to please the EU courts, and as with the XP version nobody will bother with them.

    Scrap the Starter Edition – not applicable to most here. That leaves you with 3 editions for the home market, Basic, Premium, and Ultimate.

    As I see things, Basic just won’t cut it – probably not even for cheapskates like Dell. I hope this will gain very little market share. Premium will (hopefully) be where the majority of the action is, with decent suppliers giving the option to upgrade to Ultimate when purchased, or generally available as a purchased upgrade later.

    I really don’t see that as being very confusing once you’ve got rid of this bits that don’t apply to your average customer.

  14. Microsoft Bob says:

    "there are features marked "Opt" even in the most expensive Pro versions (for example in the "Tablet" row) which can possibly mean that they plan to demand the additional money for that too."

    Actually it sounds to me more like "available, but not installed by default". It certainly makes sense for the features it’s marked against – the tablet features being a good example – completely useless unless you have a tablet PC.

    Another good example is the fax client – available for all pro versions, but only installed by default (not ‘Opt’) for the SME version – ie the users who are least likely to have a standalone fax system. Internet Connection Sharing – available for the SME and Enterprise editions but not installed by default since they’re 99% probably going to have a proper net connection.

  15. AC says:

    If "Basic just won’t cut it", like Microsoft Bob says, then why introducing it at all?

    The only explanation that I can think of is: the price for the Vista Home Basic will be the current price of XP Home, and for the Vista Home Premium, the price will be significantly higher (the premium will have to be paid!).

  16. Andrew Nonymous says:

    "The same trick (new price for new features)"

    Oh noes! You’d think they were introducing the new features just to make money or something.

  17. AC says:

    Andrew Nonymous: "You’d think they were introducing the new features just to make money or something."

    Well, you miss the point: MSFT develops a new version of some software. They are going to get the money from each upgrade. The reason for somebody to upgrade is — new features.

    But they are also selling subscriptions. The subscription was up to now sold as "if you subscribe, a new version is included in the price you pay each year". The first trick is — there’s no new version often enough. The second — "OK, we’ll give you the new version, but without the new features". Want new features? Ignore that you are paying the subscription and give us more! Then the subscribers give a loan to MSFT (by pre-paying the new version) and finance the development of the new version, but they get only old functionality, unless they pay more. If you’re a subscriber, you feel like being cheated.

    I guess that the third trick is — "let’s take more money per copy then up to now" — introduce the new "Home Basic" without the new features and sell "Home Premium" for the higher price than it was the practice up to now.

    I really hope I’m wrong, but at the moment it doesn’t look so.

  18. Many of you are asking questions such as "why should microsoft have ediiton this or edition that" and other questions such as "why does microsoft do this or that".


    Because MS spent a few billion doing market research, asking various customers in polls and surveys, doing statistical analysis, and this is the answer they got.

    The dozen or so people complaining in the comments section of this blog do NOT represent the thousands upon thousands who provided answers in MS’s research campaign.


  19. Bryan says:

    I wonder if Paul Graham’s comments on how (not) to design a car are applicable here:


    I think most Japanese executives would be horrified at the idea of making a bad car. Whereas American executives, in their hearts, still believe the most important thing about a car is the image it projects. Make a good car? What’s "good?" It’s so subjective. If you want to know how to design a car, ask a focus group.

    Instead of relying on their own internal design compass (like Henry Ford did), American car companies try to make what marketing people think consumers want. But it isn’t working. American cars continue to lose market share. And the reason is that the customer doesn’t want what he thinks he wants.

    Letting focus groups design your cars for you only wins in the short term. In the long term, it pays to bet on good design. The focus group may say they want the meretricious feature du jour, but what they want even more is to imitate sophisticated buyers, and they, though a small minority, really do care about good design. Eventually the pimps and drug dealers notice that the doctors and lawyers have switched from Cadillac to Lexus, and do the same.


    I think he’s right — focus groups are OK in the short term, but in the long term, it’s much better to bet on good design.

    IMO, having N different editions of Vista, which will confuse IT departments (they’re not blessed with a telepathic ability to know exactly which edition they’ll need — or at least, the IT department that I work in isn’t; maybe yours is different), the people at Dell (same argument: they’re not telepathic; it’ll at least take a while before they figure out what they want to offer), and the occasional home user that decides to build a PC from parts instead of buying one pre-made, is a bad design.

    But maybe I’m weird.

  20. Bryan says:

    I think some of that (though maybe not all) is people asking for the ability to remove parts of Windows on their own, or making those parts available but not always installed.

    Having a version of windows with X and Y but no Z doesn’t necessarily mean a whole separate edition. It could mean an edition where X is mandatory, but Y and Z are optional. Or even where all of X, Y, and Z are optional (depending on what X, Y, and Z are — you wouldn’t want to remove kernel32.dll!).

    Yes, this can cause problems for support, though. I don’t really know how to get around that problem, although most Linux distros that offer paid support seem to manage it OK. (Maybe they just say "install everything and see if you can reproduce the problem" as a first response to questions that look like they’re caused by missing pieces; I don’t know.)

  21. Nick Lamb says:

    The serious commercial Linux distributions (at least those aimed at desktop/server and above) are modular and have a full dependency resolution system, versioning etc.

    You can see in their (openly on display, unlike Microsoft’s) bug databases that they aren’t seeing many problems caused by erroneously unmet dependencies, although of course sometimes customers do ask for the impossible "I’d like to use KOffice without installing KDE". Microsoft can’t do this as well or as easily because of Raymond’s favourite thing – compatibility with previous versions of Windows.

    Actually though even without making use of the ability to /remove/ packages from the default install, the Linux distros stay out of the way more. Unneeded bits of say, Red Hat WS4 tend to do nothing, even server software is typically disabled and harmless out of the box. The fact that the 20+ year old "xfig" software was installed with your OS is irrelevant because if you never use it you need never know it is there. How many Microsoft products and components insist on interviewing every new user, to ask their name, or whether they prefer two panes or three, or if they have any music, any photographs, any hobbies? How many add "just one" icon to the desktop, put themselves unasked into hot lists or run "just one" extra status gadget that the user neither asked for nor needed? How many insist on using the Internet to do who-knows-what without being asked? How many are silently creating new folders in the users own home space?

    Yet, amazingly, it took until recently for Microsoft to add the one thing that could be justified in getting in the user’s face – update notifications.

    So a typical Windows PC arrives to the customer with a lot of annoying lights and bells, which they turn off or learn to put up with. Anyone who does this 10 times or more per year gets sick of it, and they inevitably wish Windows came without the annoying bits they don’t need. But if only those bits would /shut up/ and stay out of the way it would never be an issue on any but the smallest and most underspecified of computers.

    I think it’s actually /harder/ for Microsoft to make the ego bruising changes required than the Linux distributors. Maybe Raymond can comment on this, but my guess is that Microsoft’s final desktop arbiters are reluctant to remove, hide or tone down anything that represents a significant amount of work for one particular team or individual, because it’s hard not to take something like that personally. That would certainly explain the mess that I see, as a user, on a Windows XP system.

  22. And yet, people also complain that there aren’t *enough* versions of Windows. "I want a version of Windows that has X and Y but no Z."

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