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TL;DR: Get Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional.

In case you haven't heard, it has been 100% confirmed that Windows 7 will be released in six versions. People are bitching and whining over this, but honestly, it's pretty easy to understand:

Windows 7 Starter
-Available worldwide to OEMS on new PCs
-Up to 3 concurrent applications
-Can join a Home Group
-Improved taskbar and JumpLists
-Missing Aero UI tweaks

Windows 7 Home Basic (Vista equivalent: $200)
-Only available in emerging markets
-Missing Aero UI tweaks
-No limit on concurrent applications
-Live thumbnail previews & enhanced visual experience
-Advanced networking support (ad-hoc wireless networks and internet connection sharing)
-Mobility Center

Win7 Starter and Win7 Home Basic are mainly for 3rd world countries (to combat piracy in those countries) and in low-end Netbooks.

Windows 7 Home Premium (Vista equivalent: $260)
-Available worldwide to OEM and Retail
-Includes all features of Windows 7 Home Basic
-Includes Aero UI tweaks and advanced windows navigation
-Features multi-touch capabilities and improved handwriting recognition
-Adds "premium" games
-Adds media capabilities (enhanced Windows Media Center, enhanced media streaming, DVD playback, DVD creation, Play To, etc.)
-Can create home network groups

Windows 7 Professional (Vista equivalent: $300)
-Available worldwide to OEM and Retail
-Includes all features of Windows 7 Home Premium
-Adds Mobility Center
-Adds Presentation Mode
-Available worldwide to OEM and Retail
-Ability to join a managed network with Domain Join
-Adds Remote Desktop, Offline Folders, etc.
-Data protection with advanced network backup and Encrypting File System
-Print to the right printer at home or work with Location Aware Printing

Microsoft will be focusing on Win7 Home Premium and Win7 Pro.

Windows 7 Enterprise
-Available only in volume licenses
-Includes all features of Windows 7 Professional
-Adds Branch Cache for support when on networks based on Windows Server 2008 R2
-Adds Direct Access for seamless connectivity to corporate networks based on Windows Server 2008 R2
-Adds BitLocker on internal and external HDDs
-Adds AppLocker for locking unauthorized software from running.

Windows 7 Ultimate (Vista equivalent: $320)
-Limited OEM and Retail availability
-Includes all features of Windows 7 Enterprise

Win7 Enterprise and Win7 Ult are not targeted towards consumers. You most likely will never use the abilities of Enterprise or Ultimate.

If you buy a premade (read: made by Dell, Acer, HP, Compaq...etc) Windows XP or Windows Vista machine after July 1, 2009, you are eligible to upgrade your machine to Windows 7 for FREE when it ships.

Bottom line, if you want Windows 7, you'll probably be happy with Home Premium or Professional.

Sources:
http://www.engadget.com/2009/02/03/windows-7-skus-announced-yes-your-worst-nightmare-has-come-to/2

http://www.geekzone.co.nz/content.asp?ContentId=8066

December 2010

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