Microsoft just announced that Windows 8 will come in three different flavors: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT. Windows 8 will be the mainstream consumer edition. The Pro version will bring a number of features that most mainstream consumers don’t necessarily need to Microsoft’s next operating system. These include encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity. Both Windows 8 Pro and the mainstream consumer edition will be available in 32 bit and 64 bit versions. Microsoft will also offer an enterprise version of Windows 8. Microsoft has not shared any details about the pricing of these editions yet.
Windows 8 Pro, according to Microsoft, was designed “to help tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals obtain a broader set of Windows 8 technologies.”
The RT edition – which is meant for machines that run on ARM chips – will come with touch-optimized editions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. While there will likely be desktops that will run Windows on ARM, this edition is mostly geared towards tablets (though the other Windows 8 versions can obviously also run on x86-powered tablets).
Until now, it also wasn’t quite clear if Microsoft also planned to include its Media Center in Windows 8. Judging from today’s announcement, Media Center will only be an option for Windows 8 Pro users and will be “available as an economical ‘media pack’ add-on.”
Microsoft will also offer an enterprise version of Windows 8 that will include all of the features of Windows 8 Pro. This version will also feature a number of tools “for IT organization that enable PC management and deployment, advanced security, virtualization, new mobility scenarios, and much more.”
While this new lineup doesn’t quite offer the simplicity of Apple’s approach, it does at least cut down the number of choices compared to Windows 7. For Windows 7, users currently have the choice between Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate. Microsoft also offers an enterprise version of Windows 7, as well as a Basic version for low-end machines.
You can find a full feature comparison on the Windows blog.