Breaking down the Vista versions, part 2

Breaking down the Vista versions, part 2

Summary: Which version of Windows Vista will work best for you and your organization? I've gone through each version, feature by feature, and made a list of which features are available only in specific Vista versions. This article, the conclusion of a two-part series, includes advanced networking features and system administration tools that will be especially interesting to IT professionals in charge of enterprise networks.

TOPICS: Windows

In the first part of this series I listed the consumer-oriented features that will be available only in specific versions of Windows Vista. In this conclusion, I focus on features that are of interest to IT professionals and system administrators in charge of business networks.

For the most part, if you want any of these advanced features, you have three choices:

Virtual PC Express will run apps written for earlier Windows versions that are incompatible with Vista.

Vista’s Business Edition is intended mostly for use on small business networks, with or without Microsoft’s Small Business Server.

The Enterprise edition, sold only through volume license agreements, is designed for use with enterprise networks.

Vista Ultimate Edition offers a combination of advanced networking features (like the ability to make domain connections) and consumer-oriented goodies (like Media Center). This combination isn’t currently available to XP users, and it should be a popular choice among frequent travelers.

What do you get with each one? The full breakdown begins after the jump.

Portable PCs

According to recent statistics, most PCs purchased for corporate use these days are notebooks, so it’s not surprising that Vista has a slew of features that work only on portable PCs. The following advanced features are missing from the Home Basic edition but in every other version:

  • PC-to-PC Sync. This feature, new to Windows Vista, allows you to automatically synchronize the contents of well-known folders on two networked PCs (usually a desktop and a portable PC).
  • Network Projection. Another new Vista feature, this lets you send your display to a network-connected (wired or wireless) projector.
  • Presentation Settings. If you frequently use a notebook to deliver presentations, you can define a group of settings for quick connections.

Advanced Networking

Basic networking capabilities, including the capability to make wireless network connections and to connect to peer networks, are built into every version of Windows Vista. A few network features will be limited to premium editions.

As with Windows XP and Windows 2000, most Vista versions will restrict you to no more than 10 simultaneous SMB connections. In the Home Basic edition, this number drops to five. On most basic home networks, you'll never notice the limitation.

The three high-end Vista editions – Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate – will include wireless network provisioning capabilities, which allow administrators to define and deploy wireless connections using command-line tools and Group Policy settings.

Like its predecessor, Windows Vista will include the capability to make a Remote Desktop connection. Vista’s Home Basic and Home Premium editions will follow the same model as Windows XP Home Edition – they can connect to another computer acting as a Remote Desktop host, but they can’t accept incoming connections. The three premium editions will support Remote Desktop features as a host and a client.

Windows Collaboration is the replacement for NetMeeting. It allows Vista users to share a desktop with other Vista users, for ad hoc presentations and for live editing sessions. If you use the Home Basic edition, you’ll be able to connect to a Windows Collaboration session in View Only mode. All other editions can act as hosts and interact fully with sessions they’re connected to.

Network administration

Vista includes a long list of features that are primarily of interest to administrators of enterprise networks. If you want any of the following features, you’ll need to run Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate editions:

  • The ability to join a Windows domain (including Small Business Server)
  • Group Policy support
  • Offline files and folder support
  • Client-Side Caching
  • Roaming user profiles
  • Folder redirection
  • Desktop deployment tools for managed networks
  • Policy-based quality of service for networking
  • Windows Rights Management Services (RMS) Client
  • Control over installation of device drivers
  • Network Access Protection Client Agent
  • Pluggable logon authentication architecture
  • Integrated Smart Card management
  • Centralized power management through Group Policy

In addition, Internet Information Server is an optional add-on available only with Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions. As with Windows XP Professional, it’s restricted to 10 simultaneous incoming connections.

Support for multiple languages

The two high-end versions of Windows Vista, Enterprise and Ultimate, will support a;; worldwide user interface languages – 36 in total. In either of these editions, you’ll be able to simultaneously install multiple language packs.

Application support

If you want to run UNIX applications under Windows Vista, you’ll be able to do so in a separate subsystem available only in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions.

Those two high-end packages also include Virtual PC Express, a light version of Microsoft’s virtualization tool, which will allow you to run applications written for earlier Windows versions that are incompatible with Windows Vista. The preliminary specs don’t go into detail on this feature except to note that it will be limited to a single VM. In particular, there’s no indication whether the Express VM includes a licensed copy of Windows XP or whether you have to supply your own.


Both the Business and Enterprise editions include something called Small Business Resources. It’s not clear from early betas what this is exactly; based on the descriptions in promotional literature, it sounds like a series of wizards and walk-throughs to help business owners perform security and administration tasks normally handled by IT professionals.

And most mysterious of all are the Windows Ultimate Extras scheduled for inclusion with Ultimate Edition. Supposedly, these will include a group of high-end programs and services, delivered via Windows Update. What they’ll consist of is likely to remain a mystery until Vista’s launch date.

Topic: Windows

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Backward compatibility.

    Virtualization may resolve the code problems resulting from the need for backward compatibility. It's Microsoft's current solution, anyway:

    "Those two high-end packages also include Virtual PC Express, a light version of Microsoft?s virtualization tool, which will allow you to run applications written for earlier Windows versions that are incompatible with Windows Vista."

    Does meet my expectation of a separate application.

    But I also wonder whether other applications will be available easily and at no additional cost to the virtualized prior Windows. Being able to use program output is frequently important.
    Anton Philidor
    • It is a separate application.

      They purchased VirtualPC from Connectix a few years back. They used to be the leading Windows emulation software for Macintosh.

      I think VMWare Server is now free, so you have some options.

      Unfortunately, this is Microsoft, so I would guess that in then near future your "only" option will be Virtual PC, of course.
    • Yes, separate applications are available

      Virtual PC 2004 is available now for Windows XO Professional, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, and Windows 2000 Professional. A 45-day trial version is free, and is $129 (list) at retail. Virtual Server 2005 R2 is free and runs on Windows Server 2003 (fully supported) or Windows XP Professional (unsupported). You should be able to install just about any Windows program in the virtual environment.
      Ed Bott
    • RE: Breaking down the Vista versions, part 2

      @Anton Philidor Thanks for sharing this information with us. I am a big fan of reading, thanks for sharing this wonderful information.
      <a href="">Graphic Design</a> |
      <a href="">Web Design</a> |
      <a href="">Advertising Design</a>
  • Feature List Antidote

    It seems a lot of work has gone into returning freedoms and
    features to the business user... only to have the administrator
    take them away again. Every cubicle farm inmate has had his or
    her seat turned into a flexible networking powerhouse that aims
    to replicate the centralized control and safety of thin client
    architecture. The genius of it is, you'll have to pay for hundreds
    rather than one. Then you have to pay for the servers too. Then
    you pay again for the multiplied support costs. But it's a small
    price to pay really, and there is more at stake here. The flag of
    personal freedoms must be raised above dark and dubious
    spectre of socialist efficiencies. Face it, no one wants to ride that
    pinko bus.

    Blame Apple for the first "personal" computer and later for the
    GUI that validated it. How do you keep anyone on the farm after
    they've seen Paris.

    So it's Minesweeper all around. Let's add Aero Glass too (slick!),
    and 500 RAM just to keep that happy. Kingston will kick back a
    little something. Witness the splendor as a windows reveal the
    background behind, producing a kalidascope of hybridized
    colours and blurs that look like the camoflage on a Focke Wolfe.
    Business will have never looked so sharp and been so dumb.
    Harry Bardal
    • So your complaint is your boss?

      Not much MS or anyone else can do for you.
  • Finally!

    The same old OS divided up/hobbled into names you can measure
    your johnson by.

    I'll be getting the Ultimate version! And I don't care what it costs!
    Len Rooney
  • There is another option...

    Don't use it! Unfortunately, in the business world, companies will eventually migrate to Vista, and consumers will get it when they buy a new system.

    Since I have to support it and be certified on it, it will go on one of my 5+ systems for evaluation. The rest will stay linux. Although certified on many Microsoft products, I still prefer linux over Windows.
  • Vista Ulitmate "Extras"

    Hey, here's an idea I hope everyone will find in their "Vista Ultimate Extras" stocking, when it's released just after Christmas, 2006.

    I submitted this patent-pending idea, in good faith (tsk, tsk?), to Microsoft on March 13, 2006. It originated, in my mind, a year ago as I struggled to navigate my mouseless tablet computer. Multiple touch panel strokes just to close a dang window! Arrgh!

    GoPoint(tm) enhances the Vista/IE 7 user experience by providing an auto-appearing, pointer-centric navigation graphic for true one-click, short-stroke launching of navigational-type functions.

    Here's hoping Goliath likes it 'cuz it sure will make both notebook and PC users' lives "Ultimately" easier (and make me a few bucks, to boot!)

    Ah...inovation and collaboration in the 21st century. Ain't it great!

    Ray Myers
  • The right choice is not to choose

    I've not read or seen anything that makes me excited about the release of Vista. The list of enhancements sound like warm over XP. The few things I've heard that really are new are "look and feel" enhancements.

    Oooh shiny! I have to have it. BS

    Hey Microsoft - how about some real enhancements, like making it secure and stable?

    Is it really necessary to have all these different versions? Pro and Home are enough.

    I'm sticking with XP until I am forced to upgrade.

    The government bust the monopoly on the Desktop OS that Gates and company created with their "agreements" with hardware vendors to preload windows on every machine they sell. Vista will be shoved down our throats whether you want it or not when you replace your computer. And when you get it home and realize the version you have doensn't have a feature you need, you will have to run out and give Microsoft more money for the upgrade of the OS you really need.
  • A bank in japan has approached

    Apple about switching completely to Apple Computers.

    Isn't all this stuff listed already available in Mac OS X.4 and when
    X.5 comes out, will be again miles ahead of Vista?

    And what about the security risks? I'm wondering what the real
    advantages will be for all this and if you have to be a "power
    user" to understand how to operate all this new stuff. You
    already have to tell XP nearly every step it should execute, will
    Vista be less "click" needy?