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Microsoft to Release Eight Versions of Windows Vista

After months of maintaining that it had not yet finalized its Windows Vista line up, Microsoft seems finally to have decided upon a half dozen core Vista versions.

According to a posting on its Web site, Microsoft is readying six core Vista packages, or SKUs, plus two additional releases customized for the European Union that won't bundle in Windows Media Player, as ordered by European antitrust regulators.

On the line up are Windows Starter 2007; Windows Vista Enterprise; Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista ultimate, Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Home Basic N and Windows Vista Business N.

The "N" releases are those which do not include Media Player.

It's not clear whether the Starter release mentioned on Microsoft's site is the same as the current Windows XP Starter Edition product, which is a cut-rate, less fully featured version of Windows tailored for developing countries.

The new SKU list contains relatively few surprises, as Microsoft had been widely expected to fold features from its current Windows XP Media Center Edition and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition into other SKUs, rather than continue to sell them as distinct editions.

Company officials also previously discussed plans to offer a Windows Vista Enterprise Edition — a variant of Vista that Microsoft is using as an incentive to attract more users to sign up for its Software Assurance licensing plan by making it available to Software Assurance customers only.

However, as some Web commentators have noted, there is no Windows Vista Small Business Edition on the current list. Such a SKU was supposedly part of Microsoft's Vista plans, as of quite recently. There also is no mention of any 64-bit-specific Windows Vista editions on the Microsoft Web site.

According to information on the Microsoft site, all of the planned Windows variants will include integrated games.

The Vista Business, Home and Enterprise editions all will include built-in support for mobile devices.

Microsoft currently offers six different versions of Windows XP. The line up includes XP Home, Professional, Media Center, Tablet PC, and Professional x64, and the Windows XP N editions.

Rumors regarding Microsoft's thinking on final Vista packaging have been leaking for two years. During that time, Microsoft officials have maintained that the company had yet to decide on its final packaging plans for the operating system, which is due to ship this fall.

Microsoft officials did not respond by the time this article was posted to questions as to whether the latest line-up list reflects all of the planned Windows Vista versions.

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