I saw one of the newest Apple ads last night, which featured the PC trying to figure out which version of Windows Vista he should install. I’ll admit: it was as funny as all the others, which is to say that I and the two other Microsofties I was with (a senior developer and a test lead) got a huge kick out of it. That said, the ad still annoys me on some level.

Apple’s fundamental argument is that you have too many options when you try to choose which version of Windows Vista to get with your PC. Of course, this argument ignores the fact that you won’t actually have six versions from which to choose. Let’s evaluate each of the Windows SKUs in turn:

  • Starter - This isn't available in the United States, nor is it available in English. It's cheap. Really cheap. If you're reading this blog, I doubt you're in the target market for Starter.
  • Home Basic - Umm, it's Vista. It's also pretty cheap. It also doesn't do Glass. I doubt you'll ever see this unless you try buying a super-low end computer. And, honestly, if you're only going to spend half the price of the cheapest Mac on a new computer, you're probably not that interested in Media Center.
  • Home Premium - It's Vista, and it's pretty awesome. To paraphrase what the PC might say in this case: 'Hi, I'm a PC. And a TV. And a Tivo. And a Tablet PC.'
  • Business - It's Vista, and it's also pretty awesome. You can do all sorts of neat things that Macs can't, like join a Windows server domain. You don't have Media Center, but you're using this in a business. Why does it matter?
  • Enterprise - If you work in a large, IT-managed corporation, you'll probably use this. Plus, since IT manages your desktop, you don't even have the opportunity of 'getting confused' by the myriad Vista SKUs.
  • Ultimate - OK, so I take back everything I said before about Business. You have a domain. And want Media Center. Plus, you want the coolest, most exclusive features around.

So, if you’re a casual computer user and happen to see this ad on TV, the list of Vista options you should care about are:

  • Home Basic - want to send email, see some photos, browse the web, and maybe write a letter here and there? This is probably pretty good for your needs. Checking Dell right now reveals that a Vista machine with Home Basic will cost you about $350. Let me know when you can buy a brand new Mac for the same price.
  • Home Premium - want to do all the stuff I talked about with Home Basic, plus you might want to play some games here and there, or make dvds, or hi-def movies? Home Premium is probably about right for you. You can buy a computer from Dell with this OS for about $600 (about the same price as Apple's cheapest computer)
  • Ultimate - Call your computer a rig? Know the difference between HDMI and component? Buy computers from companies like Alienware? This is probably the right edition for you. 

Just to review, computers equipped with these three versions of Windows Vista seem to fall into a couple different price categories: sub-$500, $600 - $2000, and loads of moolah. You just have to ask yourself: which price point is right for you when it comes to buying a new computer? The rest is pretty much handled.

Oh yeah, and Vista really isn’t the anti-christ, as Nik Cubrilovic was nice enough to point out:

I didn’t expect it to be like this, I didn’t want Vista to be this good - I was expecting to boot back into OS X and living happily ever after, but damn, this is one fast, slick and nice operating system. If you are a Mac user try it yourself, install boot camp and Vista and it will feel like you just added another CPU and doubled your RAM - I can’t see any evidence for any of the reports of Vista being slow or power-hungry.