I like to think of it as feature-itis, but in Microsoft's understanding of the world, multiple product editions, or what it calls SKUs (for stock keeping unit, a retail term) equate to more revenues. That's why the company's upcoming Windows client and Microsoft Office revisions will feature more product editions than ever before, all aimed at specific markets. It sounds like a support nightmare to me. Let's take a look.

Windows Vista skullduggery

On the Windows Vista side, a production Microsoft Web site pretty much verified the Windows Vista product edition lineup that I first published back in September 2005. Then, on Monday, Microsoft took down the Web site and explained that the site was for testing purposes only and "included incomplete information about the Windows Vista product lineup." However, I think we can extrapolate where Microsoft is going with Vista by comparing this temporarily-published list of Windows Vista product editions with the one I originally revealed last year.

As with XP today, there will be home and business versions of Windows Vista, plus a weird pseudo-Vista called Windows Starter 2007 that will replace Windows XP Starter Edition and won't include any of Vista's graphical improvements. On the home side, we'll see Vista Home Basic (and Home Basic N for the EU), Vista Home Premium, and Vista Ultimate. Vista Home Basic (note the lack of the word Edition anywhere in the titles) is a replacement for XP Home Edition, while Vista Home Premium will replace XP Media Center Edition. I'll get to Vista Ultimate in a moment.

On the business side, Microsoft is planning a Vista Business (and Business N for the EU) version that will replace XP Professional, a new Vista Enterprise that will provide a single instance version of Virtual PC and other unique features, and, probably, a Vista Small Business version, also new, that will be the client equivalent of Small Business Server. I say probably there because Vista Small Business is the one product edition that didn't appear on Microsoft's site temporarily.

On the top of the heap is the new Vista Ultimate, which is of course the version everyone will want. This version will include all of the features from both the home and business sides of the fence. And unlike the various XP versions today, each of the Vista versions should be true superset of each other as you move up the product line. So Vista Home Premium is a superset of Vista Home, and Vista Enterprise is a superset of Vista Business.

Office 2007 silliness

Late last week, Microsoft announced that it's Office 12 product line would be branded as Office 2007, which is no big surprise. But the company also announced pricing and which product editions it would sell. As with Windows Vista, we're looking at a literal grab bag that should keep the licensing folks in your organization busy for quite some time. However, because we know more about the Office 2007 product editions, we also know exactly which of these versions are volume license only, and what the costs will be. Sink your teeth in:

There will be seven Office 2007 product editions, as well as numerous individual applications and related servers. Starting at the bottom, Office Home and Student 2007 ($149, no upgrades) will replace Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003 with some changes. First, the new version will be applicable to all home users and can be installed on up to three PCs. Second, this version includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, but not Outlook like previous versions.

Office 2007 Basic will include Word, Excel, and Outlook but will be made available only with a new PC purchase, as with Office 2003 Basic Edition. Office 2007 Standard ($399, $239 for an upgrade) will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Office Small Business 2007 ($449, or $279 for an upgrade), will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook (with Business Contact Manager), and Publisher. And Office 2007 Professional ($499, or $329 for an upgrade) will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, and Publisher.

On the volume license front, you'll have two options. The new Office Professional Plus 2007 will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Publisher, Office Communicator, InfoPath, and server-based content management, forms management, and information rights and policy capabilities. On the high end, the new Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Publisher, Office Communicator (enterprise instant messaging), InfoPath, OneNote, Office Groove 2007 (enterprise peer-to-peer collaboration), and server-based content management, forms management, and information rights and policy capabilities.

Is your head spinning yet? Wait, there's more. In addition to the Office applications we all know and love (Access, Excel, InfoPath, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Project, Publisher, Visio, and Word), Microsoft is also introducing a number of new standalone Office 2007 applications, like Communicator, Groove, and SharePoint Designer, the latter of which will replace FrontPage. And there's a variety of new Office servers coming, including Office Forms Server 2007, Groove Server 2007, and Project Portfolio Server. SharePoint Server is being rebranded as Office SharePoint Server 2007 and will be recast as the center of the Microsoft Office server family. And let's not forget about Office Live, Microsoft's set of free and fee-based small business services.

All of these products will be shipping in late 2006. And the sooner you figure out what's going on, the better you'll be able to plan future migrations and upgrades. To that end, I've compiled even more information about these products in the articles listed below. All I want to know is how this almost expanding set of product releases is supposed to make anyone's life easier.

This article originally appeared in the February 21, 2006 issue of Windows IT Pro UPDATE.