REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 3, 2009 — Last month Microsoft delivered the beta version of Windows 7 for public testing. Today the company announced its plans for Windows 7 SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) strategy, explaining that Microsoft expects that a majority of customers will be best served by two primary editions of Windows 7: Windows 7 Home Premium for consumers, and Windows 7 Professional for businesses.
To get some more detail on today’s news, PressPass spoke with Mike Ybarra, general manager for Windows.
PressPass: What will change in the way you package and market Windows 7?
Ybarra: We’ve received great feedback from customers and partners through Windows XP and Windows Vista, and have learned a lot about how to communicate what’s available in different editions of the operating system. At the same time, we have a customer base of over 1 billion along with many partners, so it’s important to make sure the right edition of Windows with the right features set is available for them.
The first change in Windows 7 was to make sure that editions of Windows 7 are a superset of one another. That is to say, as customers upgrade from one version to the next, they keep all features and functionality from the previous edition. As an example, some business customers using Windows Vista Business wanted the Media Center functionality that is in Windows Vista Home Premium but didn’t receive it in Business edition. Customers won’t have to face that trade-off with Windows 7. With Windows 7 there is a more natural progression from one edition to the next.
The second change is that we have designed Windows 7 so different editions of Windows 7 can run on a very broad set of hardware, from small-notebook PCs (sometimes referred to as netbooks) to full gaming desktops. This way, customers can enable the scenarios they want across the broad hardware choices they have.
The third change lies in how we broadly communicate in the marketplace, to make these choices as simple and clear as possible for customers and partners.
PressPass: Does that mean you’ll be streamlining the product lineup?
Ybarra: With Windows 7 there will be two primary editions: Windows 7 Home Premium, and Windows 7 Professional. We think those two SKUs will meet most customers’ needs.
Windows 7 Home Premium is the recommended choice for consumers. It gives them a full-function PC experience and a visually rich environment in everything from the way they experience entertainment to the way they connect their devices.
Windows 7 Professional is the recommended choice for small businesses and for people who work at home but have to operate in an IT-managed or business environment where security and productivity are critical. For those running Windows Vista Business, it will be a very logical move to Windows 7 Professional.
PressPass: So that covers most people. What will you offer for customers at the “poles” of your worldwide market?
Ybarra: Within a customer base of over one billion, there are a lot of important customer niches, or segments, and we want to make sure we have an appropriate product for everybody. Again, for a majority of our customers the choice is really simple: Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional. We understand some of our customers have different needs, like enthusiasts who want every feature in Windows, for example.
For our biggest enterprise customers, we’ll continue to have an Enterprise edition. And we will work to make sure there continues to be strong value in Enterprise edition for our annuity customers with Software Assurance agreements. This edition will not be available at retail or by OEMs for preinstallation on a new PC. Windows 7 Enterprise edition offers advanced data protection, lower cost compliance and IT tools to streamline PC management and help save costs, while enabling access to information from anywhere for business users.
We know emerging markets have unique needs and we will offer Windows 7 Home Basic, only in emerging markets, for customers looking for an entry-point Windows experience on a full-size value PC.
We’ll also continue to offer Windows Starter edition, which will only be offered pre-installed by an OEM. Windows Starter edition will now be available worldwide. This edition is available only in the OEM channel on new PCs limited to specific types of hardware.
And certainly there is also a small set of customers who want everything Windows 7 has to offer. So we will continue to have Windows 7 Ultimate edition to meet that specialized need. Windows 7 Ultimate edition is designed for PC enthusiasts who “want it all” and customers who want the security features such as BitLocker found in Windows 7 Enterprise edition.
PressPass: Will Microsoft offer any guidance to help customers select the right PC for Windows 7?
Ybarra: At beta we’ve had a lot of people running our most premium, full-featured offering on small-notebook PCs (netbooks) with good experiences and good results. So we’re pleased to see that on this class of hardware Windows 7 is running well. And of course we will continue to tune Windows 7 for performance as we move through the engineering cycle.
Because Windows 7 is still under development, however, we have not yet put together our guidance on hardware recommendations.
PressPass: How will pricing compare with Windows Vista?
Ybarra: We haven’t announced pricing yet. Delivering value to our customers, partners and OEMs is our number-one goal and is critical to how we deliver Windows 7.