The so called “edition chaos” was a huge point of criticism for many users who considered buying Windows Vista. Many users felt that there were simply to many editions to chose from and to little explanations on how those editions differed.
Microsoft seems to have learned from the past and announced that they’d be cutting down on the editions in Windows 7. According to Ed Bott over at Zdnet only three editions of Windows 7 will be made available for the general public with additional specialized versions available only for specific countries or OEM computers.
The three editions that anyone can purchase are Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate / Enterprise.
Windows 7 Home Premium will be the equivalent of Windows Vista Home Premium. It will include the Aero interface, Windows Media Center, multi-touch, handwriting features, DVD playback and probably image based backups.
Windows 7 Professional is the equivalent of Windows Vista Business. The name change should probably appeal to Windows XP Professional users who want to upgrade to Windows 7. It includes all features of Windows 7 Home Premium plus business like additions including joining Windows domains, group policy based management tools, Remote Desktop host capabilities, network-based backup features, and support for the Encrypting file system.
Windows 7 Ultimate is the name of the Windows 7 edition with a complete feature set. It will include all features of Windows 7 Professional plus the following:
In either case, the feature set includes everything in Professional edition plus support for BitLocker whole-drive encryption (and the new BitLocker To Go feature, which adds high-grade encryption to removable media). This edition also includes all supported language packs (those cost extra for other editions) and the capability to boot from a VHD.
Windows 7 Enterprise is essentially the same product with a different name.
It is also interesting to note that it will be possible to upgrade the editions to unlock the additional features. That process is said to only take between 5-10 minutes.