Operating systems are like buses...
You wait for one Microsoft operating system and then seven come along at once.
According to one Redmond watcher, the next version of the Windows operating system, Longhorn, will be ready for manufacturing in May 2006 and will ship to the public in seven different versions.
Paul Thurrott, who runs the SuperSite for Windows website, says the seven editions will each be designed to cater for a different Windows user market.
The seven versions will include the Longhorn Home Edition, Longhorn Premium/Media Center Edition, Longhorn Professional Edition, Longhorn Small Business Edition and Longhorn Mobility/Tablet PC Edition.
It seems Microsoft is also hoping to bookend the user market by aiming for both the very high end and those OS buyers with less to spend.
According to Thurrott, Longhorn will also be available in what Thurrott calls Longhorn Ãœberedition and will offer all the functionality of the Home, Premium, Professional, Small Business and Tablet versions in an all-in-one package.
At the other end of the scale, Redmond will be launching a Starter Edition: a stripped-down, lower-cost version of the operating system. It's a strategy that Gates and co have already been pursuing in several countries with Windows XP, including India.
Microsoft declined to comment on the likelihood of a multiple Longhorn release. A Microsoft spokeswoman said: "We have not announced details regarding the specific versions of Longhorn we will make available."
However, she added that Microsoft will "continue to support the usage scenarios our users require and will support new scenarios as appropriate".
Microsoft currently has Home, Professional, Tablet and Media Center iterations of its OS on the market.
The spokeswoman said no decisions had been taken as to which editions would make it through the gates of Redmond although Thurrott believes it's just names that need to be rubber-stamped.