MS Windows 8: When simplify means multiply

Microsoft has always confused IT pros with its variously priced Windows SKUs, updates, downgrades, delays, naming conventions and partnership flip flops, but this is ridiculous.

Screenshot of Windows Server '8' Beta -- No mention of that at yesterday's Windows 8 announcement, but the data and download under that name are all still up.

Microsoft has been confusing IT pros and with its multiple and variously priced Windows SKUs, updates, downgrades, delays, naming conventions and partnership flip flops for years now.

But this is ridiculous.

Yesterday Microsoft announced that Windows 8 will arrive in just three -- well, make that four, counting the enterprise version, or five, counting a disparate Chinese one -- versions.

That's an improvement over the six versions Windows 7 comes in, but not by much. In fact, it might get worse before it gets better

See the comparison chart from Microsoft's announcement yesterday. Where's the enterprise or Windows 8 Server data? Microsoft said in an addendum added later in the day what the Enterprise version would be-- Windows 8 Pro plus management features -- but this doesn't clear up the Windows Server 8 confusion we'll get back to in a minute.

Source: Microsoft and Wikimedia Commons

Confusing names and a prolific amount of mysterious product data sheets with various names, specs and downloads began appearing just before Microsoft first rolled out Windows 8 Consumer Preview (a beta) on February 29 in Barcelona.

Just two hours before, in the middle of the night PT, Microsoft silently posted a doc with detailed enterprise specs it posted in a "Windows 8 Consumer Product Guide for Business" document on its site. It also deployed a download for Windows Server 8 the same day.

But Microsoft never mentioned the doc or Windows Server 8 at its Mobile World Congress 2012 announcement. It barely mentioned it a week later at CeBIT, at a promised event to talk Windows 8 enterprise, another confusing move.

Microsoft released one set of information online and avoided saying anything about it on both launch events in both cases. It was maddening. Why do this?

In the first and last week of February a half dozen or more other names, specs and data sheets for products emerged. There's Windows 8 for Business, Windows Server '8' -- presumably the same thing as the Windows Pro announced yesterday. Yet both spec sheets of both products are up at this writing. And just hours before Microsoft's "simplified naming announcement" of the three (or four, counting enterprise) named versions, execs writing for a Windows Server 8 blog announced this for IT folk.

in the product sheet for Windows 8 for Professionals -- still up -- and in its release notes and registry for the current release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview, there are references to other enterprise type products, including Windows 8 Enterprise Edition, Windows 8 Enterprise Eval edition, Windows 8 Professional edition, Windows 8 Professional Plus edition and Windows 8 Ultimate edition and at least four other names targeting entry level products.

I am not the only one confused.

It could well be that Microsoft's bloggers have no clue what their comrades are promoting or announcing. For instance the doc Microsoft released -- Windows 8 Consumer Review for Business -- clearly outlined IE support for legacy Active X controls, an integrated scripting environment quite similar to that supported by Active Desktop, BitLocker support that IT pros can push from Group Policy to users, support for remote encryption, a feature akin to RIM’s BlackBerry BES, and support for such standards as HTML5, SVG and CSS 3, all of which would make mobile Windows devices, at least, more secure and manageable than they are now.

These specs show up both in the unannounced (but posted) doc about Win8 for Professional and Windows 8 Server Beta.

If Microsoft is going to "simplify" its Windows 8 naming conventions and releases, it should one, actually simplify them, and two, simplify its own internal communication structure. To have Microsoft announce three, four or five versions yesterday without even a mention of the other products it still has data sheets up for and download links for isn't just strange. It's bizarre.


Gina Smith is a NYT best-selling author of iWOZ, the biography of Steve Wozniak. She is a vet tech journalist and chief of the geek tech site,


I don't find it confusing. Actually it's clearer now. There is Win 8 [whjich probably should of kept the "home" used in Vista and Win 7], Win 8 Pro, Win 8 Enterprise and Win 8 RT. Gone is ultimate and starter [although starter was limited anyways since it only came with base systems like netbooks - you couldn't buy a retail copy of starter]. Windows Media Center deserves to be an extra. Not as useful fotr most. That stuff with the Win 8 Pro plus may be just old information. "Windows 8 Enterprise Eval edition"? Of course - it's a trial version. No different than the Entterprise except it craps out after [probably] 180 days. Things are clearer if you ignore Win 8 RT. Most won't care about it anyways. It comes with hardware only. You can't buy it as a retail copy. As for a Chines [?] version, you might as well include the the other variants such as "K" or "N" [no Windows Media Player, no Internet Explorer, etc.].


Nope, business as usual. I just took a call from a vendor saying that Microsoft is targeting companies under 250 people with soft audits. After all with so many versions it is highly unlikely that any company could be 100% compliant. More $$$ for the M$ machine. Microsoft's naming and version system has been broken for a very long time. They are unable or unwilling to get it under control. I actually believe it is deliberate on their part after all they have no incentive to sell 1 or 2 products when they can sell 4 or 5 or 6 or???. I am asked all the time to install a student version of software on a company computer. I always refuse and when I explain why the end user gets very upset. I always refer them to Microsoft.


The author of the article sounds like a troll...


First, Microsoft has same or similar policies like any other software companies. For example, you can't install OS X on anything but on Mac hardware Second, different versions are helpful. Why bother including features on a home computer that they will never need [Group Policy, domain features, etc.]. Licensing stipulates what you can or can't do. You don't have to use their software. Can't be 100% compliant? Try volume licensing. Cheaper and easier to manage. Maybe you should switch to Linux....


If all the companies do it that makes it the right way? NOT! As far as compliance, it is not an issue for me, though it is for a lot of businesses I consult with. Microsoft licensing is a minefield, the regular person is bound to step on a mine sooner or later. I get a call from a 5 man shop, go in to look at their system and there is a Student Version of Office, or a home version on a laptop or.... Ever try to buy business versions pre-installed at BestBuy? The small businesses don't order computers they buy them off the shelf. Guess what you don't find many systems with business versions on store shelves, because they cost more and people don't understand the differences. And lets be honest why should a student only pay $20 for the EXACT SAME software a business pays $200+ for? As for versions, I don't have a problem with 1 or 2 versions, but 5+ is a real stretch for an OS. We aren't talking about an Office Suite, we are talking about an Operating System. Take a look at Apple, they have two Desktop and Server. After all you are either going to have a computer that you work on or a computer that serves information. All the rest doesn't really belong in the OS anyway. Oh and for the record I don't use Windows any more than needed. I still run Novell and e-Directory /Groupwise. I do run linux for a lot of things from routers to spam filtering, to web servers, to system monitoring, phone systems, and the list goes on. I am betting you run linux too and don't even know it.


Waiting for the catch after I read "You don't have to use their software"... Yeah...Linux-guy. You know, WINE doesn't do everything right...and, if you're in the US, MS is the monopoly in regards to computers. That "silent" monopoly is what lead so many to move to Apple and Linux. However, now that MS has had their experience with them (maybe minus the Linux folks) come running back. Funny thing: I fully agree with you (well, minus the Linux bit lol)

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