Microsoft's Big Six

There's a lot of buzz this past few days about Microsoft's latest announcement about Windows 7. On Tuesday, the company issued an announcement that there would be six SKUs of Windows 7 on the market. For my two cents, I think Microsoft should take a lesson from the fast food industry: Think "small, medium, or large." Or more accurately, use the Starbucks model of "Tall, Grande and Venti", since there's really nothing "small" about Windows, is there?

From a purely marketing perspective, three options is perfect--gives the consumer choice, but not too much choice. And regardless of the wisdom and logic behind the six variations, there has been plenty of negative comments on the blogosphere about the potential for confusion. After all, it's not Linux. How many hundreds of Linux distributions are there? That's why Linux will never be mainstream. Nobody knows which distribution to use. That, and the perception of being only for power users and the lack of marketing. Seriously, a couple good penguin-themed Super Bowl ads would be a game-changer.

To their credit though, Microsoft is focusing on promoting two editions as the main offerings: Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional, and these two will encompass the majority of users. Microsoft will also be offering a Starter Edition, Home Basic, Enterprise, and Ultimate version. The "Home Basic" is targeted at emerging markets, so we won't be seeing much of that in the States; rather, the intent is to make sure that third world users have the opportunity to use Windows as well. (If you've ever been to a bazaar in Southeast Asia though, you know they already do, although you typically buy it from a shady dealer who has copies under the counter for five bucks each.) The Starter Edition, which will be available only pre-installed by an OEM on specific types of hardware, will presumably meet the need for users who still run lower-end, less expensive hardware. The Ultimate version is the Microsoft equivalent of "Would you like to Supersize that?" and has all the extra goodies that most of us don't need or don't care about, but are essential to a small group of power users.

So long as Redmond stays focused on the two primary offerings, Windows 7 has a good shot at getting past the negative perceptions about Vista, and back into the good graces of Windows users everywhere.

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