Microsoft thinks high-end with Vista

Code embedded in preview version of software makes reference to six potential versions, one being "Home Premium Edition."

LOS ANGELES--With Windows Vista, Microsoft is considering a product lineup that would include several new high-end editions of the operating system.

Microsoft has discussed plans for an edition for corporations and is also evaluating both a small-business version and an "ultimate" edition of the operating system that would combine the best of Microsoft's corporate and consumer features.

The company has not yet said how it will sell Vista, and an announcement is not expected for some months. However, buried within the test code handed out to developers on Tuesday is a reference to six separate versions of Vista. Earlier on Tuesday, Microsoft announced plans for a community technology preview version of Vista. That software was handed out to developers attending the Professional Developers Conference here.

In at least one place, the software makes reference to Home Basic Edition, Home Premium Edition, Ultimate Edition and three versions of Vista Professional: Standard Edition, Small Business Edition and Enterprise Edition.

Microsoft Group Product Manager Greg Sullivan said in an interview that no final decisions have been made.

"They're really placeholders," he said, referring to the references to different editions within the current code.

With Windows XP, Microsoft has its mainstay home and professional editions, as well as Tablet and Media Center. Windows XP Starter Edition, a limited version of the operating system, is sold with new PCs in emerging markets such as India, Thailand and Brazil. The company also sells a version of XP Pro that is designed to work with 64-bit chips from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.

CEO Steve Ballmer first made reference to the enterprise version of Windows Vista in a meeting with financial analysts in July. He also announced plans for a premium version of Office that will come with Office 12 next year. Microsoft has not provided details of either version.

Various Microsoft executives have also noted that with Vista, high-end laptops should be able to combine both Media Center and Tablet PC capabilities.

Windows enthusiast site WinInfo on Monday reported the same packaging plans as those that were included with the Vista preview code. WinInfo also said there will be a starter edition of Vista.

In a statement, a Microsoft representative said the company plans "to share more about the Windows Vista product editions, as we continue through the beta process."

"At this time, no final decisions have been made" regarding the Vista lineup, the representative said.

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