Breaking down the Vista versions, part 2

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.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor on

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.

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