Microsoft released Windows Vista: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Home Basic N, Business, Business N, Enterprise and Ultimate. And, up until now, Microsoft indicated no signs of adopting a new strategy with Windows 7. The company has so far confirmed the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows 7, and is now referencing an entirely new SKU, Windows 7 for Small Businesses.
In Windows 7 Pre-release (M3) Privacy Supplement, Microsoft mentions about “BitLocker Drive Encryption (BitLocker) is available on computers running Windows 7 Enterprise Edition and Windows 7 Ultimate Edition”. The install discs being given out at WinHEC and PDC label Windows 7 as an 'ultimate' release. However, that could just as easily be a means of assuring tech-savvy early adopters that they haven't got a cut-down version. Microsoft is keen to push sales of 64-bit Windows, so it might choose to keep a 64-bit Ultimate branding for the propeller-head crowd.
However, in a job posting — Microsoft mentions: “Communicate and generate Partner excitement for Windows Vista Business, Windows 7 for Small Business (future), Office Ready, Server channel programs, and new Server launches with Windows Small Business Server & Essential Business Server 2008.” (emphasis added)
There has been no official word from Microsoft related to the way it plans to deliver Windows 7 SKUs until now. However, so far, moves from the company indicate that a drastic simplification of Windows 7 editions compared to Windows Vista might in fact not be a top priority, or even in the plans.
Upgrading straight from XP to Windows 7 will be painful: Asked in a session this week how the upgrade path from Windows XP straight to Windows 7 would work, one executive bluntly replied "there won't be one" and suggested that Vista SP1 (or, by implication, a brand-new machine) would be the minimal entry point for anyone seeking to move to Windows 7. That sounds harsh, but it has a certain logic. If the gap between Vista and Windows 7 is at least three years, many businesses will have upgraded machines in the interim. In this environment, purchasing new XP licences now requires the purchase of a Vista Business licence which is then downgraded, so in theory those upgrades could be considered Vista to Windows 7 despite what's actually running. APC
As of now, in PDC build 6801, upgrades from XP to Win7 are blocked. (I don’t know whether this restriction will be in the final edition as well, but I bet it is.) You can do a clean install only, with all your old Windows files going to a Windows.old directory and none of your files and settings transferred (you can, however, use Windows Easy Transfer to save settings first and restore them later).
So the compatibility issues you’re ignoring right now aren’t going to go away. If you have apps or hardware drivers that only work on XP and aren’t compatible with Vista, you’re going to have those same issues with Windows 7, which isn’t going to magically fix anything. Ed Bott