With 1 billion users served, it's impossible to make everyone happy. But with its Windows 7 SKU plan, unveiled on February 3, Microsoft seemed to give more than a few of its current and potential customers indigestion.
Claiming it had achieved a line-up that offered "clear choice" for customers, Microsoft announced it would field six Windows 7 SKUs -- roughly the same number it offers for Windows Vista. Many users, upon hearing about Microsoft's plans, said they didn't understand why the company couldn't go back to its XP strategy of supporting two SKUs: One for home and one for work.
It seems clear no matter how much users complain, the one or two SKU only idea is not one that Microsoft is going to implement. Given that caveat, what could Microsoft do to make the Win 7 line-up more palatable?
Every user has his/her Windows 7 hot buttons, many of which have been shared in the comments section of my blog and others. Why is BitLocker encryption included in only in Enterprise and Ultimate? Why isn't the multilingual user interface (MUI) pack part of all SKUs by default? Why is there no domain-join in Home Premium?
Teching It Easy blogger Andre Da Costa had an interesting idea. Why not provide one or two base configurations of Windows (Home and Professional) and let users choose which features they'd like to add from a Chinese menu of available features/services? I can see a couple of problems with such an approach: How would third-party software makers be able to write for an operating system whose feature set had a nearly limitless set of permutations? And how much longer and more costly would Windows support calls be if each user's Windows set-up was different from any other user's? The "let users have it their way" idea is still intriguing, though.
It's worth remembering: There are still many elements of Microsoft's Windows 7 SKU plans that we still don't know. One piece about which I've asked but am still unclear is the company's virtualization plans.
Of the six SKUs, are there any that cannot be used in a virtual-machine environment? (With Vista, Microsoft spent a considerable amount of time and effort tweaking its end-user license agreements to allow/prevent different SKUs being used in virtual environments.)
Earlier this week, I asked Bill Veghte, the Corporate Vice President of the Windows Business unit, about which Windows 7 SKUs will be "virtualizable. " He said Microsoft's virtualization strategy on the client would focus around the Enterprise SKU and possibly spill over into the Professional one.
I asked a spokesperson for more of a concrete answer and was told Microsoft had "nothing to share at the moment."
Here are the Microsoft-approved talking points about virtualization and Windows 7, for what they are worth (also provided by the same spokesperson):
"We continue to offer virtualization value as part of the Optimized Desktop through Windows Enterprise Edition, Windows Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) and the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. All of these offers are also available today for Windows Vista customers and will move forward to Windows 7.
1. The Windows Enterprise license enables customers to deploy multiple virtual copies and versions of Windows on their PCs.
2. The Windows Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (VECD) license enables customers to deploy Windows in VDI scenarios on server hardware, in employee or contractor owned PCs scenarios or even in portable scenarios such as on USB keys.
3. MDOP (Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack) provides technologies for virtualization such as App-V for application virtualization and MED-V to run legacy applications on Windows."
Short of getting Microsoft to reevaluate the Windows 7 SKU line-up -- which I think there is zero chance of happening -- are there any specific SKU features/details you are hoping they reconsider before Windows 7 ships?