Who’s buying new PCs with Windows Vista Home Basic? Judging by the name, you’d assume those OS editions would be loaded on underpowered machines headed for tract homes in the burbs and studio apartments in the city. But you’d be wrong.
Based on my observations of the PC market over the past year or two, I think consumers have rejected Home Basic in favor of Home Premium. But small, budget-conscious businesses have embraced the low-end OS.
In one large sample I looked at, nearly three out of every five machines destined for small business included Windows Vista Home Basic. Small-business buyers are apparently able to look past that name, and PC makers are happy to accommodate them. The primary appeal of Home Basic isn’t technology, it’s cold hard cash. Vista Home Basic runs Windows apps just fine, and it’s dirt cheap. Dell, one of the world’s two largest PC suppliers, in fact, is pushing Home Basic as the preferred option for many computers aimed at the small business market.
Take Dell’s Vostro 200, which is aimed squarely at the small-business market and starts at $269 with a Celeron 430 processor, 512MB of RAM, and no monitor. A much more capable machine with a Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 19-inch monitor sells for $449. All three machines in this line come with Windows Vista Home Basic. To upgrade to Vista Business or downgrade to XP Pro is another $99, which represents a huge percentage of the system cost.
The phenomenon is equally pronounced if you look at the Vostro notebook line, where more than half of all available configurations, 13 out of 24, include Vista Home Basic. By contrast, Dell’s consumer notebook line offers 34 separate configuration, of which only three start with Vista Home Basic. The remaining 90% come with Vista Home Premium (only one model includes Vista Ultimate by default).
You can see the same mix of Windows versions if you go to a business-focused reseller like CDW and look at a list of the cheapest available desktop computers, sorted by price in ascending order. Five of the 10 PCs on the list, including models from HP Compaq and Lenovo, come with Vista Home Basic. (Once you get past those low-end PCs, however, almost all computers sold at CDW include Vista Business.)