Six different Vistas, same old view

Microsoft's new operating system is great ... as a public relations platform for the software giant.
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor

As we slowly creep closer to the launch of Windows Vista, it seems that the six different versions of Microsoft's new operating system are for the benefit of the company's PR machine rather than its customers.

Why would Redmond go to all the trouble of creating six separate versions of Windows Vista for six different markets and then not bother to properly tailor them?

This is Microsoft's Vista lineup (Please note that I have made up the descriptions of each version -- for the official line look here):

  • Vista Starter edition: Designed for emerging markets -- functionality is throttled and is only available preloaded on computers in so-called developing countries.
  • Vista Home Basic: Same as the starter edition but for use in rich countries. However, targeted at people with old PCs.
  • Vista Home Premium: This version is for your average home user with a very powerful PC.
  • Vista Business: Standard edition for businesses.
  • Vista Enterprise edition: Same as above but for companies with a volume licensing deal.
  • Vista Ultimate edition: For consumers or companies with more money than sense.

I am wondering why, with so many different types of users, Microsoft has chosen to use exactly the same firewall configuration in each version?

That is a question Microsoft is as yet unwilling -- or unable -- to answer.

After numerous e-mail exchanges with Microsoft's press office in Sydney -- who after every query had to wait overnight for an answer from Redmond -- I was told Microsoft is "responding to requests" from its customers.

So. Microsoft's enterprise and government customers say "give us a firewall with only incoming protection turned on" and Microsoft says "ok".

Wow. That is pretty good service.


What about the hundreds of millions of home users?

When announcing the different flavours of Vista, a director in Microsoft's Windows client unit Barry Goffe said: "We're really trying to make sure we have the right set of offerings for different customers".

I put this to Microsoft and -- after the usual delays -- they responded with: "Microsoft doesn't have anything further to add to your story on the Windows Vista Firewall but as we get closer to Vista's launch we will make sure to keep you informed on security-related announcements around the OS".

Earlier this year, Jim Allchin, the ex-co-president of Microsoft's platform, products and services division, said one of the most compelling reasons for moving to Vista was enhanced security: "Safety and security is the overriding feature that most people will want to have Windows Vista for... Even if they are not into home entertainment or in any of the specialty areas, they are just going to feel safer and more secure by using it."

I think the killer line here is: "they are just going to feel safer and more secure by using it."

They [Microsoft's customers] are not necessarily going to be any safer. But that doesn't matter because they will already have spent their money.

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