Microsoft reveals Windows 8 editions

April 17, 2012 // 10:26 a.m.

Tags: #microsoft #microsoft-windows #windows #windows-8 #windows-8-enterprise #windows-8-pro #windows-on-arm #windows-rt #woa

Microsoft has officially announced the naming convention for its next-generation of Windows, which - you may be amazed to hear - is definitely going to be called Windows 8.

The unsurprisingly-named replacement for Windows 7 is due to come in two main flavours: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. The former, analogous to Windows 7 Home Premium, includes a pretty large sub-set of Windows 8 functionality - including the ability to switch languages on the fly, a feature which was previously limited to Windows 7 Ultimate for no readily apparent reason.

Windows 8 Pro, by contrast, is aimed at what Microsoft describes as 'tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals.' As well as all the features of the standard Windows 8 release, the Pro version adds in support for virtualisation, disk encryption, and the ability to connect to an Active Directory domain.

Windows 8 Pro will also be joined by Windows 8 Enterprise, an exclusive version only available to customers with a Software Assurance agreement. Packing all the functionality of Windows 8 Pro, the Enterprise release adds in support for centralised PC management and deployment, advanced security features and improved virtualisation support.

The two-and-a-bit standard Windows 8 releases will also be joined by Windows RT, previously known as Windows 8 on ARM (WOA.) Designed for devices using processors from British chip giant ARM, Windows RT will ship with a software bundle which includes touch-optimised versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

If you're wondering where the name comes from, Microsoft claims it's due to the focus for developers on the Windows Run Time or WinRT. Originally unveiled back in September, WinRT is designed to provide developers with an easy way to get web-connected touch-based applications up and running on an ARM-based Windows system.

From Microsoft's description of Windows RT, one thing is clear: despite companies like Qualcomm teasing ARM-based laptops, Microsoft is positioning Windows RT as a competitor in the tablet marketplace to the likes of Apple's iOS and Google's Android. While there will be ARM-based laptops, they won't be Microsoft's primary focus for Windows RT.

Users considering an upgrade on their x86 system will be pleased to hear that Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will both be available as an upgrade option from Windows 7 Start, Home Basic and Home Premium. Those who plumped for Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, however, will be restricted to Windows 8 Pro or a complete system wipe.

The new product line-up does, however, provide a certain clarity missing from previous Windows editions. Compared to the three mainstream releases plus Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 7 was available in Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate, plus the anti-monopoly K and KN variants.

A near-complete run-down of how the features are split between the different releases is available in the below table.

Feature nameWindows 8Windows 8 ProWindows RT
Upgrades from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premiumxx 
Upgrades from Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate x 
Start screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tilesxxx
Windows Storexxx
Apps (Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, SkyDrive, Reader, Music, Video)xxx
Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote)  x
Internet Explorer 10xxx
Device encryption  x
Connected standbyxxx
Microsoft accountxxx
Desktopxxx
Installation of x86/64 and desktop softwarexx 
Updated Windows Explorerxxx
Windows Defenderxxx
SmartScreenxxx
Windows Updatexxx
Enhanced Task Managerxxx
Switch languages on the fly (Language Packs)xxx
Better multiple monitor supportxxx
Storage Spacesxx 
Windows Media Playerxx 
Exchange ActiveSyncxxx
File historyxxx
ISO / VHD mountxxx
Mobile broadband featuresxxx
Picture passwordxxx
Play Toxxx
Remote Desktop (client)xxx
Reset and refresh your PCxxx
Snapxxx
Touch and Thumb keyboardxxx
Trusted bootxxx
VPN clientxxx
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 

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