Microsoft has announced how it will release Windows 8 in three different editions, two of which should be right for most.
Microsoft has always taken an unusual stance when it comes to how to distinguish between the different versions of Windows. Barring special editions that were released as a result of litigation or court proceedings, such as Windows XP Starter Edition for developing markets or Windows XP Edition N, Microsoft made it easy for most of us with just two versions of Windows XP – Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Microsoft released Windows Vista with a bit more diversity. Vista came in five different editions – Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, Business and Enterprise. Windows 7 was similar with Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. Microsoft is taking a “Windows XP Editions” approach with Windows 8. There will be two – Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional. Windows 8 is the edition that most everyone will use. It replaces Windows 7 Home Premium and includes the ability to switch languages on the fly, which was previously only available in Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate.
BitLocker and Encrypting File System support are part of Windows 8 Professional. It also has client Hyper-V virtualization and can boot from a virtual hard drive (VHD). Windows 8 Professional is the edition you’re most likely to see in the enterprise, as it also allows you to join a Windows domain, contains support for group policies and has Remote Desktop host. Currently, these features are only available in Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise.
Both Windows 8 editions will be installed at the factory, and will be sold at retail locations. They will be the only editions available to the consumer. Microsoft also plans on releasing Windows 8 Enterprise; but it will only be available to corporate customers with a Software Assurance agreement.
Windows on ARM, or WOA, has been rebranded as Windows RT. It does not come with the Microsoft Windows 8 brand, even though it has a similar feature set and the Windows 8 code-base. It will only be installed on ARM-based computing devices at the factory. It will not be available for purchase in any retail or corporate channel. Pricing for all Windows 8 editions is still unknown.