Microsoft has finally shed some light on the different versions of Windows 8 we’ll see upon release, and thankfully, things are much simpler than past versions.
This time around, there are only three flavors Microsoft is pushing heavily: Windows 8, the version geared towards most consumers; Windows 8 Pro, for enterprise and enthusiast users; and Windows RT, which is the new name for Windows on low-power ARM processors (previously called WOA).
And fret not, IT workers. Microsoft says another version of the OS, Windows 8 Enterprise, will be available to organizations with Software Assurance agreements. It’s basically an offshoot of Windows 8 Pro, since it contains all of the features of that version plus an increased IT-management feature.
Notably, Windows RT will only be available pre-installed on ARM-powered devices like tablets and ultraportable laptops, so you’ll only have to worry about the other two versions of Windows 8 when deciding to upgrade your current computer. (For Media Center fans, Microsoft says it will be available as an “economical add-on pack” for Windows 8 Pro.)
The standard version of Windows 8 will include all of the great features we’ve already seen in the OS, including the new tablet-friendly Metro interface, updated Windows Explorer, and support for new Metro apps. Windows 8 Pro will add encryption, virtualization, PC management, and domain connection features, according Windows Communication Manager Brandon LeBlanc.
As we’ve covered previously, Windows RT will include touch-optimized Office apps. Explaining the Windows RT name, LeBlanc said the focus of the OS is on the new Windows runtime, which “forms the foundation of a new generation of cloud-enabled, touch-enabled, web-connected apps of all kinds.”
Below, check out a comparison chart between the three versions of Windows 8.
|Feature name||Windows 8||Windows 8 Pro||Windows RT|
|Upgrades from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium||
|Upgrades from Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate||x|
|Start screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles||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|
|Installation of x86/64 and desktop software||x||x|
|Updated Windows Explorer||x||x||x|
|Enhanced Task Manager||x||x||x|
|Switch languages on the fly (Language Packs)||x||x||x|
|Better multiple monitor support||x||x||x|
|Windows Media Player||x||x|
|ISO / VHD mount||x||x||x|
|Mobile broadband features||x||x||x|
|Remote Desktop (client)||x||x||x|
|Reset and refresh your PC||x||x||x|
|Touch and Thumb keyboard||x||x||x|
|BitLocker and BitLocker To Go||x|
|Boot from VHD||x|
|Encrypting File System||x|
|Remote Desktop (host)||x|
Photo via Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat