Microsoft: Here are the four editions of Windows 8

Microsoft: Here are the four editions of Windows 8

Summary: Windows 8 is the official name of the next version of Windows client. Here are details on the four SKUs that are in the pipeline.


Those hoping for fewer Windows editions than in previous versions, your prayers have been answered. Sort of....

It's official as of today, April 16: Windows 8 is the name for the next version of x86/64 edition of Windows. And there will be three four SKUs only.

According to a blog post on the Windows Team Blog, there will be two editions of Windows 8 for x86/64 processors: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.

Windows 8 is the consumer SKU. It will include the updated Windows Explorer, Task Tak Manager, better multi-monitor support and the ability to "switch languages on the fly," which previously was only available to those purchasing the Enterprise and Ultimate Editions of Windows .

Windows 8 Pro is for tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals, and adds features for encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity. The Windows Media Center functionality will be available as an add-on to Windows 8 Pro, known as the "Media Pack."

Here's the complete feature chart from Microsoft as to which features will be included in which SKU. The site revealed previously the details of these new Window 8 SKUs.

Microsoft is naming the Windows on ARM (WOA) version Windows RT. Yes, another WinRT -- which is the Windows Runtime (WinRT), the new Windows Runtime which is at the heart of the Metro-Style side of Windows 8. The WinRT version is for WOA tablets and PCs only. I guess that means Windows 8 on Intel and AMD processors fall under the two SKU rule: It will be either Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro if you are gravitating toward one of those devices due out later this year.

Update: As Paul Thurrott notes on the Windows SuperSite, there are actually four SKUs, not three. There also will be an Enterprise SKU of Windows 8.

A footnote on the April 16 Windows Team Blog post notes:

"As with previous versions of Windows, we will also have an edition of Windows 8 specifically for those enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements. 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."

Update No. 2: If you really want to split hairs, there are actually five versions. From Microsoft's post: "For China and a small set of select emerging markets, we will offer a local language-only edition of Windows 8."

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Windows Media Center is Part of Windows 8 Pro

    You say that: "The Windows Media Center functionality will be available as an add-on to Windows 8 Pro, knwon as the ???Media Pack.???".

    But the table in the Windows blog you link to says it is part of Windows 8 pro, no add-on required at all.
    • Read carefully

      The table says "Windows Media Player" not media center. Two different products
    • Agree

      Windows 8 Pro is for tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals, and adds features for encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity. [url=]what is career transition[/url]
  • "WinRT" as the name for what was code-named "WOA" sends marketing message

    "Windows on ARM" (WOA) is a hardware-linked terminology. Bad.

    But, Microsoft needs a marketing term for its new generation of Windows, that uses the Windows Runtime (WinRT) underpinnings instead of the now-obsolete Win32 underpinnings.

    To understand what they are doing from a market messaging perspective, look at what they did in the early 90's. They needed a term to denote their future software technology for operating systems, distinct from the old plain "Windows". They called it "Windows NT" for "Windows new technology". Beginning with Windows 2000, Windows NT became the unperpinning for all versions of their OS.

    So, I think what they are tring to do is to name the newer, WinRT-based only OS, in a way that is reminiscent of "Windows NT" (aka WinNT). So, they called the new OS itself "WinRT". (Get it? N->R).

    The message is that WinRT is the future, and it will not be linked to a specific CPU architecture (e.g., ARM).
    • Genius!!

      I think you have this bang on. I fully expect WinRT to become the future standard for all windows programming including desktop programs (you can look up some blogs where simple desktop apps where programmed in WinRT on Win8 developer preview). I think this is Microsoft's strategy to eliminate the security issues and improve efficiency for all programs on Windows. Your analogy of RT vs NT is the most plausible reasoning that I have come across so far for MSFT's announced naming scheme for WOA.

      I think eventually (not too far from now) developers will be able to write WinRT desktop apps targeting both x86 and ARM. It is the reason why a desktop exists for WOA (if desktop was only ever going to allow file manager and office then that's a hackjob). Possible reasons for delaying the desktop APIs are the added development time that may be needed, or to allow Metro apps their time in the limelight to get significant developer attention.

      I could very well be wrong, but I think this strategy is much more coherent and I would hope MSFT has something similar in mind as well.
      • Developers can already

        Write winrt apps targetting both arm or x86 hardware, it can be done with Visual Studio 2011.
      • Write once, both platforms (and any other?)

        One thing is clear with WinRT software development (for Metro), build it for x86 and it will also run on ARM. That's because you are not building it for x86. You are building it for Windows and Windows' WinRT does the rest. The developer experience is made simple because the engineering of Windows is awesome. Credit where credit is due.
    • Rename?

      You are saying WinNT is becoming WinRT? Even though that would be nifty, I have not seen anything to indicate that. Other than conjecture, have you?
  • I only see 2 SKUs - not 4

    I only see 2 SKUs here -- Consumers will just have 2 SKUs to choose from -- Win8 & Win8 Pro. You cannot ask for anything more simplified without compromising choice & price for consumer. 4 SKUs would be misleading & just feed the apple trolls.

    Ent is not available to end users & RT will not be available anywhere (as it will come preloaded on ARM machines)
    • True, if you ignore all the other versions you are left with two

      Report started as 3, then updated to 4, finally 5.

      And these were only the x86_64 versions; we add x86_32, localised versions for other developing markets, ARM, ...

      Sums up where MS is today, a great article about dropping the Windows Ultimate name and making the media centre an add-on;-)
      Richard Flude
      • WRONG: x86 64 bit and 32 bit are the same SKU.

        Developing markets is only 1 SKU and it is not available in the US.
      • I don't think so

        "x86 64 bit and 32 bit are the same SKU"

        Both are going to be available in the one physical product? Link please.

        "Developing markets is only 1 SKU"

        Actually it's likely one sku per developing market, unless you believe local-language translates to chinese in every developing market.
        Richard Flude
  • Start menu is dead

    Dead and gone. Sorry buddy.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Minor correction

      You mean the Start "Button" - Metro is the Start Menu; features are almost 1:1 parity. Maybe what you meant is the look and feel of the Windows 7 Start Menu. If so, right on. That's Windows 7. Metro is Windows 8.
  • start menu and button is dead.

    start menu code was kicked in Consumer Preview, thats why the hack on Dev Preview doesn't work anymore. like it or not, it wont come back. there is always a choice, 1. stay win7/xp/vista 2. get win8 and but a start menu 3rd party software, 3. get win8 and just get used to new start screen??? and etc, etc.

    and start menu button is dead as well, the hotspot we have in consumer preview is for having Access to the same left corner start screen "button" in every app.
    Emi Cyberschreiber
  • Old Dog Can't Learn New Tricks


    Are you saying you would pay extract just to get one more button?
    • If it means...

      not having to pay for 5 minutes of training to 10,000 users who get paid an average of $12/hour then that question is a no-brainer...that's $10,000 in training costs for one large company. And do you honestly think that migrating from Windows XP/Vista/7 to Windows 8 and the Metro UI is only going to take 5 minutes of training before users are as proficient at their daily work as they were before? My prediction is that the enterprise is likely to skip Windows 8 completely, unless there is a significant amount of time between Windows 8 and Windows 9. They aren't going to want to have to foot the bill for all the additional training. TCO is something that most large companies have figured out pretty well by now. Using the same 10,000 user organization, they'll assume at least 20 hours of lost productivity per employee in the first year for a switch to Windows 8...maybe more since the technology hasn't saturated the consumer market yet. That comes out to $2.4 million in lost productivity year 1, or $240 per employee. A company with 10 employees can probably rationlize $2,400 in lost productivity. When numbers get into the millions, that rationalization gets a bit more difficult.
    • @jasonp

      God man, I'm pleased you're not in my bosses hierarchy... But then my boss doesnt employ dumb people.
    • @jasonp

      Start menu/button/orb or not, even if these features were still included it would have been very likely that most enterprises would skip Windows 8 in favor of the well-anticipated and proven Windows 7. It was Microsoft's gift to the enterprise, while Windows 8 focuses heavily on consumers. Windows 8 is simply too new and contains a big piece of new technology (Windows Runtime) that has yet to be established. From this perspective, it's a 1.0 release, and will ship in an incomplete condition. Most enterprises fear to early-adopt such things.

      The costs of training are not really an argument here, because people will always have to learn and adopt to new technologies, whether we like it or not, that's the price of progress and change. If we don't want it, we have to stop it and only keep fixing bugs forever and ever.