Windows 8 will come in four main editions
In a post on the The Windows Blog, Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc has revealed more about the next iteration of the company's flagship operating system by officially confirming that it will indeed be known as Windows 8.
Moreover, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will simplify multiple editions introduced in Windows 7 by rolling the more than half a dozen editions into a mere handful with Windows 8.
The baseline product will be "Windows 8" geared towards most consumers, and will include features such as an updated Windows Explorer, better multi-monitor support and the ability to switch language on-the-fly--features which were previously only available in the Enterprise or Ultimate editions of Windows. Windows 8 will essentially be an upgrade from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium.
Enthusiasts and business users will likely be attracted to Windows 8 Pro, which like the Professional edition of Windows 7 will sport features for PC management and domain connectivity. It will also come with BitLocker encryption and virtualization capability, as well as the ability to install Windows Media Center as part of a "media pack" add-on. Windows 8 Pro is an upgrade from the Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7.
Finally, Windows RT is what was previously known as Windows on ARM, the version of Windows that will run on ARM-based processors. As noted previously, Windows RT is meant to come preinstalled on devices such as tablets, and will include a free version of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote). Windows RT will come with "device encryption" though it is unclear how it differs from BitLocker or Microsoft's Encrypting File System.
And as with previous versions of Windows, there will also be an Enterprise edition of Windows 8 for enterprise customers. A footnote of LeBlanc's blog post noted, "Windows 8 Enterprise includes all the features of Windows 8 Pro plus features for IT organization that enable PC management and deployment, advanced security, virtualization, new mobility scenarios, and much more."
Finally, Microsoft says it will offer a "local language-only edition of Windows 8" for China and "a small set of select emerging markets."
Given that Windows RT cannot be purchased off-the-shelf, and that only large institutions or businesses would have use of Windows 8 Enterprise, Microsoft has dramatically and effectively simplified the licensing options for most customers to Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro--which can only be a good thing. Additional details pertaining to pricing and other limited-time programs and promotions will be announced in the coming months.