Six confusing flavors for Win 7 like Vista — a misstep for Microsoft?

You'd think Microsoft would want to limit comparisons to Vista, but the corporate giant is at it again — Windows 7, which has been well received so far, will launch in six different versions. Hearing them listed out makes it sound confusing at first: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. Still, there's hope.

It looks like the average user picking up the new OS will only really have to decide between Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional, just like when XP was on the shelves. Starter is a dumbed down version for less powerful systems like netbooks, and Basic is targeting "developing markets." Enterprise will still slot into business markets with bulk licenses, and Ultimate — as the name implies — has all of the bells and whistles, though your average user won't need it.

After processing all that, things don't look too bleak. While it feels like Microsoft is stumbling back into the same hole it fell into with Vista, the various versions of Vista are now established in international markets and, if the company can control the Windows 7 release to make it less confusing, keeping that same hierarchy may actually make things less muddled.

Click Continue for a more complete breakdown of the different versions.

From Ars Technica:

• Windows 7 Starter (worldwide via OEM only): up to three concurrent applications, ability to join a Home Group, improved taskbar and JumpLists

• Windows 7 Home Basic (emerging markets): unlimited applications, live thumbnail previews and enhanced visual experience, advanced networking support (ad-hoc wireless networks and Internet connection sharing), and Mobility Center

• Windows 7 Home Premium (worldwide): Aero Glass and advanced windows navigation, improved media format support, enhancements to Windows Media Center and media streaming, including Play To, multi-touch and improved handwriting recognition

• Windows 7 Professional (worldwide): ability to join a managed network with Domain Join, data protection with advanced network backup and Encrypting File System, and print to the right printer at home or work with Location Aware Printing

• Windows 7 Ultimate (worldwide): BitLocker data protection on internal and external drives, DirectAccess for seamless connectivity to corporate networks based on Windows Server 2008 R2, BranchCache support when on networks based on Windows Server 2008 R2, and lock unauthorized software from running with AppLocker

• Windows 7 Enterprise (volume licenses): same as Ultimate, includes the following improvements: DirectAccess, BranchCache, Search, BitLocker, AppLocker, Virtualization Enhancements, Management, as well as Compatibility and Deployment.

Via Ars Technica and Gizmodo