MS has recently announced what SKUs will be available for Windows 7.  [SKU is an acronym for stockkeeping unit, which represents one unique inventory item.]  It seems that they have simplified for the majority, most will choose Home Premium or Professional (basically analogous to XPs versioning), and MS claims that these will be the only two offered at retail (there will still be 32 and 64 bit versions of each).

What I find interesting is that MS thinks Windows Starter Edition will upset Linux/XP on netbooks.  It is no secret that Vista won’t run sufficiently well on netbooks, that is why initially Linux did so well in that market and why it wasn’t upset until MS started pushing XP for that market.  MS claims all versions of Windows 7 will run on netbooks….sure they will.  But cost is still a factor, so MS will make Starter Edition available to compete with the free Linux offerings on the cheapest of laptops.  No Aero, can only run 3 apps at a time, no app previews, etc…  Will this satisfy the netbook crowd? It remains to be seen.

A nice thing about the new SKUs is that each is a super set of the next lower one.  So you never have to choose between features–with Vista it was do I want Media Center or group policy editor?  Now you decide which features you want and buy appropriately, no more having to choose between missing features and purchasing Ultimate edition.  I think this alone makes a huge improvement over the Vista release.

Many will claim that all of these different versions confuse people and that MS should simplify.  These folks are simply wrong.  The different versions indicate health returning to the OS market, the ending of the MS monopoly.  When there were no other choices to be had, MS could get away with offering a one size fits most release in the same way that Henry Ford could get away with offering the Model T in black only.  But as soon as there is competition clamoring for consumer attention/spending then we have lots of choices, the producer must make different products for different niches or risk losing market share.  So, in my view, the varying SKUs are a good thing.

On Windows 7 in general (building on what I previously posted):

I haven’t done much modifying to the taskbar, I am trying to give the MS way an honest try.  But there are areas that I still find not very usable.  The taskbar, like the OS X Dock, mixes running and commonly used apps together.  I can’t understand how anyone can defend this in usability terms, I use my taskbar to know which apps are running and mixing them with the launchers is a dumb idea.  After some more time giving it a chance I plan to remove the launchers and reimplement the quick launcher then make a few settings changes and have basically the Vista/Win95 style taskbar.

Libraries have grown on me, I think it is genius.  Mostly because it eliminates all the crap pollution that app installations put in your home folder, it hides it very well.

I still expect the RC in March.