A lot of fuss has been made about the number of available Windows 7 SKUs.  Read the full breakdown at http://windowsteamblog.com/blogs/windows7/archive/2009/02/04/a-closer-look-at-the-windows-7-skus.aspx.  Fortunately for enterprises, you really just need to be concerned with two:

  • Windows 7 Professional (effectively the replacement for Window Vista Business)
  • Windows 7 Enterprise

You might think that Windows 7 Ultimate should be included in that list, but for enterprises it doesn’t really add anything over the Enterprise version – except for headaches, as the Ultimate version does not come in a volume license version so you need to use individual retail license keys if you deploy it to many machines.

See http://windowsteamblog.com/blogs/business/archive/2009/02/11/windows-7-enterprise-edition-customer-benefits.aspx for the details of what is included in Windows 7 Enterprise.  Notice that Media Center and and the DVD playback codec are now available in Windows 7 Enterprise (so Ultimate isn’t required for either of those now, nor is the separately-priced DVD codec add-on for Windows Vista Enterprise).  And look at the list of new and improved Windows 7 Enterprise features.  I’ve already been leveraging a few of these features:

  • DirectAccess so I never need to make a VPN connection any more.
  • Enterprise search scopes, expanding what I can search for directly from my desktop.
  • BitLocker To Go, keeping my data secure on the various USB keys that I use.

Windows 7 Enterprise, like Windows Vista Enterprise, is available only through Software Assurance.  Fortunately, that also gives you access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), http://www.microsoft.com/windows/enterprise/products/mdop.aspx, which is also expanding.  New is the Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) product, which enables you to run seamless VMs on a host – yet another tool in the growing list of ways to deal with application compatibility issues.

From a deployment perspective, MDT 2010 will support deploying all three of the SKUs mentioned above, although we don’t expect many people to be using Windows 7 Ultimate.  We will also cover all the supported upgrade paths:

  • Windows Vista Business to Windows 7 Business or Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Windows Vista Enterprise to Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Windows Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate

Historically though we haven’t seen too many enterprises actually do in-place upgrades, just wipe-and-load refreshes.  Maybe that will change for those looking to move from Windows Vista to Windows 7.

As was disclosed earlier, there is no “in place upgrade” for those going from Windows XP to Windows 7, so you have to do a wipe-and-load refresh deployment in that case.  (See http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd446674.aspx for a description of the process, although for those of you who have been using SMS, ConfigMgr, or MDT to do this you’ll recognize that you’ve already been doing the same thing – except not manually.)  That’s not a bad thing though, as it gives you the opportunity to wipe out the “garbage” that has collected over the years.