Choosing which version of Windows XP to buy was a pretty easy decision for most people. If you needed basic features you bought the Home version. If you were a business person or wanted dual processor support and remote access you bought Windows XP Pro.
With the release of the New Windows Vista, consumers now face a much more confusing selection and which version you purchase must be carefully considered as the Vista editions vary measurably in features and software components.
Windows Vista Home Basic
This is the low end model of the Vista family, the basic no frills starter car. You get DirectX 10 (the new multimedia programming technology for graphics, sound, music, and 3-D animation) but not the fancy new Aero 3D desktop. Sidebar, a column where Vista's new mini programs called gadgets like Calendars and weather reports are kept is included in all Vista versions and the highly touted security features. That's pretty much it. You don't get Windows Media Center support or the other interesting new options and applications of the higher end Vistas. You will find Vista Home Basic installed on very low end pc's and laptops. Price: $199 full version or $99 upgrade.
Windows Vista Home Premium
Now we're talking. Microsoft is pushing this as the proper minimum upgrade to XP. Vista Home Premium has all the sexy UI elements like glassy buttons, 3d application preview, and live thumbnails icons shown in previews and commercials. You also get multimedia programs gaining in popularity like DVD Maker and Movie Maker. Windows Media Center support is included in Vista Home Premium so you can use the Xbox 360 as a media extender to play your music or movies. Price: $239 full version or $159 upgrade.
Windows Vista Ultimate
Vista Ultimate is for the home power user who wants all the cool toys. Ultimate Vista includes everything in Vista Home Premium plus robust networking and data management features from the Business and Enterprise editions. With Vista Ultimate Microsoft promises future enhancements through Windows Ultimate Extras, downloadable upgrades exclusive to this version. Price: $399 full version or $259 upgrade.
Windows Vista Business
Think of Vista Business as Vista Home Premium for business people. In this case Microsoft swaps out the multimedia centric software like Media Center, DVD Maker and Movie Maker for data backup, remote desktop and network security. Price: $299 full version or $199 upgrade.
Windows Vista Enterprise
The Enterprise version is essentially Vista Businesss designed for large companies that need mass installations on dozens to thousands of computers.
Armed with this little cheat sheet, you should be able to figure out your needs and make an informed decision before waltzing into your nearest computer store before buying Microsoft's latest and greatest OS.
Rayman Lee is a technology enthusiast who runs several web sites on gadgets and technology. His latest project is http://www.LensandPixels.com