Microsoft has now officially confirmed the versions of Windows 8 that will be available to consumers, OEMs and enterprise customers. In a huge attempt to simplify things, Microsoft will now be offering just two flavors of Windows 8 for end users in the US. As opposed to the several versions with Windows Vista and Windows 7, the versions available for Windows 8.
For the end customer in the US and generally across the world there are two versions of Windows 8:
- Windows 8
- Windows 8 Pro
There is no Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Ultimate as of now. These editions will be available for off-the-shelf buying and for OEMs to bundle. The other version available to OEMs will be Windows RT; this is the Windows on ARM specifically for tablets. Windows RT will NOT be sold at shops and end-users CANNOT upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 RT.
The difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro is essentially that of business features such as BitLocker, VHD Boot, Hyper-V, Group Policy. Windows RT won’t have the business features either, in addition to no Windows Media Player and no support for legacy x86/x64 apps. Microsoft has a very simple and useful chart explaining the differences.
The same blog post does however mention that there will be another SKU for markets like China and some emerging economies. This version will be a local language version unlike Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro that will let users switch languages.
Coming to enterprise, Microsoft will offer Windows 8 Enterprise that will have all features of Windows 8 Pro and some IT administration specific additions. In a follow-up blog post on the Windows Team Blog, Erwin Visser detailed what Windows 8 Enterprise will offer. The SKU will be available only for Microsoft’s Software Assurance customers. The IT administration specific features that Software Assurance customers get with Windows 8 Enterprise are:
- Windows To-Go
- Companion Device
- Windows RT Virtual Desktop Access
- MDOP (Desktop Optimization Pack)
- Windows InTune
Companion Device and Windows RT VDA are very interesting. The blog post explains the features as:
Windows RT Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) Rights: When used as a companion of a Windows Software Assurance licensed PC, Windows RT will automatically receive extended VDA rights. These rights will provide access to a full VDI image running in the datacenter which will make Windows RT a great complementary tablet option for business customers.
Companion Device License: For customers who want to provide full flexibility for how employees access their corporate desktop across devices, we are introducing a new Companion Device License for Windows SA customers. For users of Windows Software Assurance licensed PCs this optional add-on will provide rights to access a corporate desktop either through VDI or Windows To Go on up to four personally owned devices.
So, while technically Microsoft will have 5 SKUs of Windows 8:
- Windows 8
- Windows 8 Pro
- Windows RT
- Local language version of Windows 8 for emerging markets and China
- Windows 8 Enterprise
…there are just 2 for most users.