Eric Lai from Computerworld and I just had a chat about recent reports (like this one from Tom’s Hardware) about Windows 7 build 7025 and how it provides “evidence” that Windows 7 will ship in multiple product versions, or SKUs. It occurs to me that I should discuss this briefly.

This build is evidence of nothing.

Microsoft has shipped numerous interim builds of Windows 7 over the past 12 months with those exact product version options in Setup. Only the public beta has been restricted to just Ultimate edition. (Tech beta testers also got Home Premium, actually.) The Windows 7 Setup routine is based on that of Vista. So it shows the same SKUs. No news there.

Second, even the Windows Vista Setup has changed over time in some ways, with newer MSDN and TechNet versions of the Setup disc no longer offering the N-Editions (Home Basic N and Business N). In other words, it’s easy for Microsoft to change which SKUs you see during Setup. Again, no news there.

Long story short, you can’t expect outsiders like Tom’s Hardware to understand or communicate what Microsoft is doing with the Windows 7 SKUs. Microsoft has yet to reveal what they’re doing SKU-wise. When they do, I’ll be all over it, obviously. They haven’t done so yet, and build 7025 certainly offers nothing along those lines.

And since we are dealing with pure fantasy here, I’ll throw my two cents out: I believe that there should only be three Windows 7 SKUs: Home, Professional, and Ultimate. That’s it. Not two Home versions. No Enterprise. No Starter. Just the three.

I also feel that Windows needs to be less expensive, especially at retail, where no one is buying the product anyway. You should be able to get Home or Pro for $99 and Ultimate for $150. Anything higher is ludicrous.

If Microsoft takes these important steps, they’ll prove that the simplicity initiatives in Windows 7 aren’t just window dressing, and that the company is serious about making Windows simpler for users across the board. Go for it, guys. We’re waiting.