Microsoft

Microsoft Windows 8 will have only four versions

For most of us, there are going to be three versions of Windows 8 to choose from, with each offering distinct feature sets. That's progress toward simplicity at least.

On April 16, 2012, Microsoft revealed its intended versions of the Windows 8 operating system. The one noticeable piece of good news in the announcement is that there are fewer versions for consumers and businesses to keep track of this time. However, there still are four versions available, although one will be marketed only to the company's enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements.

Break it down

With one possible exception, the versions of Windows 8 should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever bought a Windows PC or Windows upgrade, but we should break it down just the same. The four Windows 8 versions are:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8 Pro
  • Windows RT
  • Windows 8 Enterprise (Pro plus enterprise management tools)

Windows 8 will include an updated Windows Explorer, Task Manager, better multi-monitor support, and the ability to switch languages on the fly. Windows 8 Pro will add encryption, virtualization, more management tools, and domain connectivity.

Windows RT is the new wrinkle in the lineup since it is the ARM-only version of Windows 8. Windows RT will be available only pre-installed on PCs and tablets configured with an ARM processor. The Windows RT devices will also ship with touch-optimized versions of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote).

The Windows Blog announcing these Windows 8 versions includes a very long table comparing features in each version of the operating system. I'm just going to highlight a few in Table A.

Table A

Feature name

Windows 8

Windows 8 Pro

Windows RT

Upgrades from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium

X

X

Upgrades from Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate

X

Start screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles

X

X

X

Windows Store

X

X

X

Apps (Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, SkyDrive, Reader, Music, Video)

X

X

X

Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote)

X

Internet Explorer 10

X

X

X

Desktop

X

X

X

Installation of x86/64 and desktop software

X

X

Noteworthy

There are two additional aspects worth noting. Apparently, the Windows 8 Pro version is not going to include the Windows Media Center by default. You will have to acquire a media pack add-on that Microsoft has categorized as "economical" if you want both Pro and WMC.

You should also note that there will be no direct upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8. Just as it was with Windows 7, Windows XP users are going to have to do a full install. I know all the XP users hate to hear that, but they should not be surprised by it anymore.

Bottom line

Microsoft has not given us any pricing information, which, for many of us, will be a deciding factor when considering an upgrade. In general, I like Windows 8 OK, although I would be in desktop mode all the time since I have no touch-based devices. I'll withhold upgrade decisions, however, until the final product is available.

Is Windows 8 in your future?

Also read

About

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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