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.