We still don't have an official release date, but Microsoft has outlined its version plans for Windows 8. The good news? Unlike some earlier confusing Windows releases, there are only going to be three main versions. Here's what you need to know.
The three versions at release will be:
- Windows 8 is the standard edition. It includes all the major features that have been revealed in the Windows 8 preview, such as the new Metro interface and related upgrades to core apps such as Explorer and IE. You can upgrade to this from Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium editions of Windows 7.
- Windows 8 Pro adds business features: more specifically, BitLocker and BitLocker To Go; Boot from VHD; Client Hyper-V; Domain Join; Encrypting File System; Group Policy; and Remote Desktop (host). If you currently run Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, this will be the only version you can upgrade to. (Note that some of these features are included in the Consumer Preview version.)
- Windows 8 RT is the version which runs on ARM processors, and will only be available pre-installed on existing devices. This is the release that will run on tablets and ultra-small devices, which will only run Metro apps rather than older software (which means among other things it won't include Windows Media Player, instead using newer ARM-specific playback apps). It will include Office as a built-in feature.
If you want to run Windows Media Center, that will be a separate add-on to the Windows 8 Pro release. (Compared to the US, Windows Media Center has never gained much traction in Australia, so I don't think that will disappoint too many people.)
We still don't have pricing details for either new installs or upgrades, though it seems safe to assume that there won't be upgrade prices for the RT version. The features list also suggests that there won't be an upgrade path for pre-Windows 7 versions; users on Vista or XP will need to buy a full release. The general assumption is that Windows 8 will be released before the end of the year.
While those three versions are the main ones at launch, there will be a few other tweaks. Customers with enterprise licenses will be able to access an Enterprise version based on the Pro release, but with additional features for deployment and security.
It remains remotely possible that Microsoft might develop a cut-back release for netbooks, the smallest of which can't run Metro apps. While the standard Windows 8 will support multiple languages, a Chinese-language-only version of Windows 8 is being developed, which we're guessing will be aimed at cheaper machines. So there's a small window of opportunity (ahem) there. But it seems unlikely we'll see too many other tweaks, and the lack of more versions overall is definitely welcome.
Announcing the Windows 8 editions [Windows Team Blog]