Windows fragmentation

Linux is regularly accused of being too fragmented but Microsoft has its own minefield to navigate.

By - June 23, 2010
Windows fragmentation

One of the regular criticisms levelled against Linux is that with so many versions available the platform is “fragmented”. The idea is that because there are so many “distributions” of Linux, users will be confused and unsure of which to pick.

Microsoft’s Windows, on the other hand, is often seen as a unified offering with no complications. Unless you really dig into it. In which case there are not just one or two versions of Windows (and Windows Mobile) but literally a dozen.

On the desktop Microsoft has a list of six different versions available, excluding upgrade editions. Most of them are available as individual licence editions but the Enterprise edition is available under volume licensing only. The desktop editions are:


  1. Windows 7 Starter – The edition with the fewest features;
  2. Windows 7 Home Basic – A version available for emerging markets;
  3. Windows 7 Home Premium – The standard home user-focused edition of Windows;
  4. Windows 7 Professional – More features for enthusiasts and small business owners;
  5. Windows 7 Enterprise – Aimed at the enterprise market and sold through volume licensing only; and
  6. Windows 7 Ultimate – A version of Windows 7 Enterprise but available to users as individual licenses.


On the mobile front Microsoft also has a good handful of editions, six in fact.

  1. Windows Mobile 6.x – The remaining Windows Mobile edition;
  2. Windows Phone 7 – The newer smartphone-focused OS that has been so long in the coming;
  3. Kin Phone OS – A version of Windows Phone 7 for the Kin phones;
  4. Windows Embedded Handheld – The newest edition to the lineup for the Motorola enterprise digital assistant;
  5. Windows Embedded Standard – An OS focused on TVs, set-top boxes and kiosks; and
  6. Windows Embedded Compact 7 – A still-to-be-released version of Windows 7 for slates and tablets.

Which, excluding upgrades and versions of Windows XP, brings Microsoft’s tally to a round dozen. Which is  why Steve Ballmer’s recent criticism of Google’s two-OS strategy is a little like the pot calling the kettle black.

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