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17 April 2012, 16:05

Windows 8 will be available in four editions

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Windows logo Microsoft Windows Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc has posted a blog entry announcing the planned editions of Windows 8, the company's next generation operating system. Compared to Windows 7, the number of editions has been substantially reduced. There will be Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro editions for x86/64 desktops and laptops, as well as a special Windows 8 Enterprise edition for companies with Software Assurance agreements, which will include additional features for IT administrators.

There is also a fourth edition, called "Windows RT", for ARM processors – previously known as "Windows On ARM" edition. Both the new product family and the most functionally limited member of that family, (effectively the successor to the Windows 7 Home edition), are now officially called "Windows 8".

Microsoft recommends Windows 8 (the entry-level, limited functionality edition) for home use. As usual, this edition does not include BitLocker hard drive encryption, EFS file encryption or the ability to boot from a VHD. It is also not possible to access it using Remote Desktop (host). Computers running this edition are also unable to join domains and can't be managed using group policies. All these functions are reserved for Windows 8 Pro, as is the Hyper-V client for desktop virtualisation.

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Source: Microsoft
Windows 8 Enterprise will continue to be available only to users with a Software Assurance agreement. In contrast to Windows 7, however, where the Ultimate and Enterprise editions are functionally identical, Windows 8 Enterprise will offer some features which are absent from Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft has not revealed exactly what these will be, but they are likely to be features specifically aimed at IT administrators within large company environments, such as PC management, deployment, security and virtualisation.

It will also now be possible to install additional language packages in all editions – previously this was only possible in the Ultimate and Enterprise editions. However, this does not apply everywhere: in China and "a small set of select emerging markets", Microsoft will release versions that are only available in the local language and which block the installation of additional language packages.

None of the editions will include Windows Media Center, but it will be available as an "economical media pack" add-on for Windows 8 Pro.

In contrast to the x86/64 editions, Windows RT (RT appears to be have been borrowed from the new Windows RunTime, "WinRT") will include versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote which have been specially optimised for touch-screen devices. The company is careful to point out that it will not be possible to install standard x86/64 software on the Window RT edition. It will also be lacking Media Player, will not offer the option of setting up Storage Spaces, and will not include many of the features reserved for Windows 8 Pro.

The blog posting also describes the upgrade paths for the new version. Users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 (the limited functionality edition) from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium editions and to Windows 8 Pro from all Windows 7 editions except Enterprise. There does not appear to be an upgrade path from Windows XP or Vista.

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