Six versions of Microsoft's forthcoming operating system Windows Vista have been formally announced today - covering home, business and emerging markets - ahead of the launch which is planned for later this year.

Windows Vista

Three versions will be available for home users, ranging from Vista Home Basic for people looking to browse the internet, send emails and do basic document editing, to Vista Home Premium which introduces the new transparent glass design and dynamic reflections in a user interface dubbed Windows Aero.

For home users wanting to link an Xbox 360 console, or watch and record TV shows the Premium version will be required, which includes an integrated DVD Burner and an improved search tool which is integrated in to Vista Home Premium allowing for faster and better organisation of files.

An "Ultimate" version of the operating system will bring together both home entertainment and business based features, which are available to business users in a Vista Business option giving many of the new features that Vista Home Premium offers - but without the entertainment aspect - whilst the more advanced Vista Enterprise will protect files with Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption and the ability to run not only legacy software via the Virtual PC Express but also UNIX based applications without the need for any changes to the programs.

Families and new users just getting in to using PC's will also get their own version of Vista with a "Starter" package aimed at solely 32-bit computers rather than the choice between 32 and 64-bit, and is said to be both easier to use and priced at a cheaper entry point than other versions of the operating system.