Windows 8's Four Flavors: 10 Things You Should Know

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2012-04-17

Windows 8's Four Flavors: 10 Things You Should Know

Slowly but surely, Microsoft is releasing details on its upcoming operating system launch, Windows 8. The company has already announced that the OS will support ARM processors, come with a new design, and play a key role in both tablets and touch-enabled laptops. Furthermore, Microsoft says Windows 8 will be launching sometime this year, though the exact release date (and price) has yet to be announced.

Then on April 16, the software giant offered up a new piece of information: the many different versions of Windows 8 that will be launching later this year. As expected, Microsoft will be delivering two versions of Windows 8 for consumers and tech enthusiasts as well as an ARM-based option, called Windows 8 RT. An enterprise-only solution comes with the appropriate Windows 8 Enterprise moniker.

But the branding is just one small piece of the puzzle. Now that the various Windows 8 versions have been announced, both consumers and enterprise users want to know what they'll find in each offering to determine which will best suit their needs.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about Windows 8's four versions:

1. Windows 8 is all consumers really need

Based on the sheer number of features available in Windows 8, it doesn't appear that consumers will need the Pro version of the software. The platform comes with the standard features one would expect to find in Windows 8, plus Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer 10, Windows Store, among other options.

2. Windows 8 Pro is a must-have for smaller businesses

Those operating smaller businesses shouldn't even waste their time with the entry-level Windows 8. Instead, those companies should buy Windows 8 Pro, a version that comes with all the features found in the standard operating system offering but also with key features such as BitLocker, Client Hyper-V and Encrypting File System.

3. Windows 8 RT lacks key features

Windows 8 RT is the version based on ARM€”a key addition to the Windows ecosystem. However, a look at the features included in the RT option might turn some customers off. For one thing, it doesn't come with Windows Media Player. In addition, Microsoft's Storage Space, which provides storage management via a virtualized layer, won't be coming to the RT option. But perhaps the biggest issue with Windows RT is that it won't allow for the installation of x86/64 and desktop software. The other options, of course, will.

4. Windows 8 Enterprise is the go-to for larger corporations

Although Microsoft didn't fully detail what will be coming in the Windows 8 Enterprise version, chances are it will deliver every single feature available to customers. And as the company points out, that should make it the only suitable option for enterprises that have Software Assurance agreements. Windows 8 Enterprise will basically be Windows 8 Pro with additional features, like PC management and deployment and virtualization.

Microsoft Keeping Windows 8 Versions to a Minimum


5. Consider the upgrade policy

As one might expect, Microsoft won't force current customers to buy all new versions of Windows 8. Instead, the company says current Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium customers will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate users will only be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. Windows RT comes with no upgrading support.

6. Remote Desktop isn't universal

Remote Desktop support is arguably one of the most compelling features in Windows 8 for both tech enthusiasts and enterprise users. However, the option is not universal. In fact, Microsoft says Remote Desktop (host) will only be available in the Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise editions. Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT customers will be out of luck.

7. Simplicity reigns supreme

Remember all of the versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 that Microsoft launched over the years? It was extremely difficult for customers to keep them straight. With Windows 8, however, just four versions are available, and only two of them are even available to consumers. It's a nice departure from the past, and it should help Microsoft increase revenue.

8. Office comes with Windows RT (but no others)

Surprisingly, Microsoft will be preinstalling Office (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) in Windows RT. But in the standard Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro builds, that will not happen. Microsoft doesn't say why it's bundling Office in Windows 8 RT, and there's no word on how it might impact its Office-related revenue. But folks using that platform should be quite pleased to see that they won't need to dole out any more cash to get the productivity suite.

9. Windows RT will only come preinstalled

Although customers can buy Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro and install them on their computers at will, Windows 8 RT won't come with the same option. Instead, Microsoft says that platform will be available solely as a preinstalled option on tablets and other devices that might use it. Too bad.

10. We still don't have a price or release date

Finally, and perhaps most importantly to customers, we still don't know how much the Windows 8 versions will cost nor when they will launch. In a blog post announcing the versions, Microsoft said it plans to make more information available "in the coming months." Until then, you can try out the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 to find out if it's right for you.

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