[news=http://img337.imageshack.us/img337/3858/microsoftlogo0gi.gif]Microsoft is planning six versions of the next incarnation of its Windows operating system.
Three versions of the software, called Vista, will be for home users, two will be for businesses and one will be for emerging markets.
One of the home versions of Vista will include features that let users store and play back TV shows.
No fixed date has been given for the release of Vista but it is expected to be launched by the end of 2006.
Vista, which was known as Longhorn during its long development, is a major re-working of Windows that makes changes, among other things, to the way the operating system looks and how it handles networking and sound.
Microsoft said the six versions were designed to match the demands different users have for its software. No details have been given about the pricing of the separate versions.
The six versions are:
- Vista Business
- Vista Enterprise
- Vista Home Basic
- Vista Home Premium
- Vista Ultimate
- Vista Starter
Vista Business will be the basic version for companies of all sizes and includes tools that will help organisations manage their PCs.
The Enterprise version of Vista will have all of the features in the basic version and add to them improved encryption including a BitLocker system that will stop confidential data being viewed if a computer is lost or stolen.
The Home Basic version is intended for those who only want to use their PC to browse the net, use e-mail and create and edit basic documents. It will also include desktop search and security tools.
Vista Home Premium includes everything in the Basic version and adds the new graphical interface called Aero.
Microsoft said it will also have improved media handling abilities so it can help users organise and enjoy their digital images, music and movie collections. Also included will be tools to help people author and burn DVDs.
PCs running the Premium edition will also be able to connect their machine to an Xbox 360 gaming console.
Vista Ultimate has all the features of the business and home editions in one package.
The Starter edition is a streamlined version intended for low powered PCs found in many developing nations.
Also available will be versions made specifically for Europe that, in accordance with an EU mandate, remove the Windows media player.
Microsoft pointed out that the current version of Windows, XP, is available in six different versions though most of these are tuned for the different types of hardware, such as a Tablet PC, people are using.
By contrast Vista versions are organised by what people plan to do with their computer.
"We don't want customers to be forced into buying something that isn't going to meet all their needs," said Barry Goffe, Microsoft's director of Windows client product management.