All signs indicate that Vista could be a great OS for musicians, from overhauled audio drivers to robust 64-bit computing support and overall improvements in stability, performance, and usability. Microsoft tells CDM they can let us in on further details early in March. Now the bad news: Microsoft seems to be making a marketing decision to cripple different releases of the OS. Think Pro/Home, only much worse. But there may be time to mount a campaign and get Microsoft to change their minds, even if it requires some reverse psychology.

The Story So Far

Paul Thurrott originally broke the story that Microsoft would ship its upcoming Vista release in multiple versions, and over the weekend pointed to evidence of the scheme. You’d think after press and users alike complained about having Pro and Home editions (the Home edition basically being a crippled version of Pro), let alone the confusion of separate tablet and Media Center Editions, Microsoft would streamline their line. Instead, they’re increasing the selection. Some of these releases might be necessary, like a cheaper version for emerging markets or the variants designed for legal compliance in the European Union, which requires Microsoft to unbundle Windows Media Player.

But there are still five versions that seem to be the same OS with unbundled functionality (Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate). Early indications suggest this is entirely a marketing decision, with the kind of crippled features that irked us about XP Home.

A Call to Action

There’s still time: Microsoft pulled a site on the different versions, and Thurrott reports the “branding” isn’t finalized.

So here’s your mission: spread the word and complain. Creating multiple versions of an OS is a bad idea. It gives different users a different experience when the whole point of XP was supposed to be improving the experience. It involves software makers making assumptions about who their users are and what they want to do — when users ought to get to do that. It confuses customers, and increases complexity of support. (Let’s say I have a great tip for Remote Desktop onstage. Now it only applies to a subset of the Vista users, because many of the bundles remove Remote Desktop.) And, let’s face it, it’s just annoying. Maybe some kind of differentation makes sense, but not in six different versions.

So, spread the word and complain, and maybe Microsoft will respond. Or, better yet, try some reverse psychology. We complained before about Pro/Home, and instead of combining versions, Microsoft created more. So, erm, I really LOVE all these different versions of Vista. I sure wish Microsoft had come up with MORE of them — like Home Lite, Home Premium Lite, Home Premium Pro, Pro Home Lite Premium Ultimate, or even Home Premium Lite Ultimate Media Center Tablet Edition for Devices That Have Charcoal-Colored Cases and Stand Less Than 9″ Tall Edition. Hear that, Microsoft? Please?