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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
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
Device encryption x
Connected standby x x x
Microsoft account x x x
Desktop x x x
Installation of x86/64 and desktop software x x
Updated Windows Explorer x x x
Windows Defender x x x
SmartScreen x x x
Windows Update 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
Storage Spaces x x
Windows Media Player x x
Exchange ActiveSync x x x
File history x x x
ISO / VHD mount x x x
Mobile broadband features x x x
Picture password x x x
Play To x x x
Remote Desktop (client) x x x
Reset and refresh your PC x x x
Snap x x x
Touch and Thumb keyboard x x x
Trusted boot x x x
VPN client x x x
BitLocker and BitLocker To Go x
Boot from VHD x
Client Hyper-V x
Domain Join x
Encrypting File System x
Group Policy x
Remote Desktop (host) x

Photo via Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

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