Finally! After years of confusing consumers with multiple, slightly different versions of the same operating system, Microsoft announced today that Windows 8 will come in only four versions: One for home use, one for business, one for devices running ARM chips, and one for large enterprises who buy in bulk.
For most people buying an operating system for a traditionaldesktop or laptop, the choice will be between just two versions. Theversion called simply “Windows 8” is designed for homeusers. “Windows8 Pro” is for business users and includes features for encrypting afile system, virtualization, and domain management.
“Windows RT” is the new name for what had been called Windows on ARM.You won’t be able to purchase it on its own; It’ll come preinstalled onPCs and tablets that run ARM processors.Windows RT won’t be able torun traditional X86/64 desktop software. Instead, it’ll runtouch-oriented apps based on Windows Runtime (or WinRT), Microsoft’sprogramming model for mobile apps. Apps for the touch-oriented Metrointerface are built using Windows Runtime.
Windows RT will come with special touch-oriented versions of MicrosoftWord, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
Noword on pricing, availability
In a blog post announcing the versions, Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlancdidn’t say how much the versions would cost, or when they’d beavailable. But he did make official what everyone assumed was trueanyway: that the new OS will be called “Windows 8.”
The final version of Windows 8 won’t be available for mostconsumers. “As with previous versions of Windows, we will also have anedition of Windows 8 specifically for those enterprise customers withSoftware Assurance agreements,” LeBlanc wrote in a postscript. “Windows8 Enterprise includes all the features of Windows 8 Pro plus featuresfor IT organization that enable PC management and deployment, advancedsecurity, virtualization, newmobility scenarios, and much more.”
Reducing their OS to four editions shows, for Microsoft, considerablerestraint. Windows 7, for instance, comes insix flavors: Starter, HomeBasic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. Infairness, the Starter version is found mostly only in developingcountries and the Enterprise version is available only to largecorporations.
But that still left home buyers choosing among three options: HomeBasic, Home Premium, and Ultimate. With Windows 8, the choice should bemuch clearer; most home users will choose the Windows 8 version. Onlyhome “enthusiasts” might be interested in Windows 8 Pro, LeBlanc said.