Microsoft's Windows 8 consumer and Windows RT editions: What's missing?

Microsoft's Windows 8 consumer and Windows RT editions: What's missing?

Summary: Microsoft officials have finally started to confirm specific features that will and won't be included in the various Windows 8 editions that are due out later this year.

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Microsoft officials announced the Windows 8 SKU line-up on April 16. At the same time, they also shared details about some of the features in the coming versions that no one at the company was allowed to confirm or deny until this week.

First, it looks as if users running Windows XP and Windows Vista won't be able to automatically upgrade to the Windows 8 (consumer) SKU, the Windows 8 Pro SKU or the Windows RT (formerly known as the Windows on ARM) SKU. Because Windows RT is the first release of Windows which runs on ARM, there are no previous Windows on ARM versions from which customers can or should expect to upgrade. But in the case of Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, supported upgrades are available from Windows 7 (Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional and/or Ultimate).

This could simply mean, as some believe, that Windows XP and Vista users will have to do a complete install of Windows 8, and won't be able to do a less-involved upgrade. But it could have broader implications, one Microsoft watcher said.

"This will be an interesting point for businesses who have to make some tough upgrade choices. (For) all intents and purposes, the way to Windows 8 is through Windows 7 - no exceptions," pointed out Windows8Update.com's Onuora Amobi in a blog post today. "From  a licensing perspective, what does that mean for a company that actually is on XP or Vista? Do they have to buy licenses for Windows 7 and Windows 8? From an upgrade perspective, how would this work - would the company have to build upgrade profiles to Windows 7 and then test those profiles on Windows 8 as well?

"We will need to hear more about Microsoft's upgrade recommendations for business," Amobi concluded.

Another officially confirmed piece of information is that the ability to join an Active Directory domain is, indeed, omitted from Windows RT. (This was believed to be the case, but Microsoft officials refused to confirm it whenever I asked.) Domain join also will not be supported by the Windows 8 consumer SKU. However, Windows RT and Windows 8 Consumer devices/PCs seemingly will (at least) be able to be managed via Exchange ActiveSync, and will have built-in VPN support, as will the Windows 8 Pro SKU.

Both Windows RT and the consumer SKU of Windows 8 won't include other features, including support for Group Policy;  remote desktop host support; built-in Hyper-V client; BitLocker and BitLocker to Go; boot from VHD; and encrypted file system support. Windows RT also will not include Windows Media Player or Storage Spaces, while both Windows 8 Consumer and Windows 8 Professional will.

There will be a Windows 8 Enterprise SKU that is available only to Microsoft volume customers with Software Assurance contracts. This version will include all of the Windows 8 Pro features, plus other unnamed features "for IT organization that enable PC management and deployment, advanced security, virtualization, new mobility scenarios, and much more," according to Microsoft's blog post.

Microsoft's April 16 post includes a detailed table listing many of the features that will/won't be part of the final Windows 8 consumer, Pro and Windows RT SKUs that is worth checking out.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

About

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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59 comments
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  • Upgrades

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but upgrading to Win 7 from XP wasn't possible either. So for all business still on XP, even if they bought Win 7 licenses, they still wouldn't be able to upgrade. That time around, it didn't mean you couldn't buy the upgrade software, it just meant you had to perform a clean install. Upgrade versions of the software were still usable. So I don't think buying licenses for multiple versions of the OS will be required. There will simply be more work involved as all machines will require a complete install of WIn 8.
    GhostITMG
    • Sounds plausible/possible

      Yes, that could be the case. You may just have to do a complete install and not a less involved upgrade. I'd like to hear more about this from MS. Hoping we will some time soon. Thanks. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
    • Yeah

      But I doubt corporations actually do an upgrade install as that's a waste of time. Instead they just beam images to hard drives which is far more consistent on a PC to PC basis.
      Jeff Kibuule
      • Yep

        Corporations have images, which are deployed using tools like wds or sscm, either with vlk licensing, or even oem (in which case, someone needs to enter the key manually.
        sjaak327
      • Corporations have SOE images for distinct user groups

        The Standard Operating Environment (SOE) images include the OS, all apps required by the user group and all default configuration settings.

        At a minimum, they will have one for non-IT, which are usually well locked down, and one for IT, where individual users often need the flexibility to customise for their own workflows.

        Also, corporations usually have volume licensing which allows them to have whatever version of the OS they want, so they can change to Win7 or Win8 or whatever whenever they want.
        Patanjali
  • Upgrades from Vista and XP are possible

    You can upgrade from Vista and XP. Upgrading from Vista keeps user accounts and settings (not installed programs). Upgrading from XP keeps accounts only. This was detailed in a post on the "Building Windows 8" blog a while back. http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/11/21/improving-the-setup-experience.aspx (see section "Choosing what to keep")
    aaron44126
  • Corporate clients need to buy x86 Win8 tablets

    "Another officially confirmed piece of information is that the ability to join an Active Directory domain is, indeed, omitted from Windows RT. (This was believed to be the case, but Microsoft officials refused to confirm it whenever I asked.) "

    MS/Intel want corporate users to buy X86 Win8 tablets. That seems to be the only logical explanation for the omissions in Win RT.
    owllnet
    • Domain join is also missing from Win 8 consumer SKU

      Somewhat surprisingly (to me at least), Windows 8 consumer SKU also doesn't support domain join. So it's not just ARM tablets that will be limited this way... Thanks. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Why should that be surprising ?

        Domain join and group policy have always been a pro/ultimate feature, dating back to Windows XP, the same is true for Rdp host.
        sjaak327
      • You could never join a domain with the consumer SKUs, right?

        The ARM comment is interesting, but indeed, what was the last consumer SKU that allowed you to join a domain? Am I overlooking something?
        techvet
      • Windows 9x possibly?

        Windows 9x possibly? Or did you have to have Windows NT to join to a domain back then?

        Windows 2000 Pro could connect to a domain but that was never a Consumer OS to start with.
        bradavon
      • @Mary Jo Foley .. not surprising, but definitely logical

        [i]" ... Somewhat surprisingly (to me at least), Windows 8 consumer SKU also doesn't support domain join. "[/i]

        I'm pretty sure you couldn't join consumer-specific versions of Windows to a domain before (..at least not without some concerted configuration hacks), why should it be surprising now?

        r.s.v.p
        thx-1138_
      • Consumer SKU's not supporting domain join?

        Didn't XP MCE support it (at least partially)?
        Joe_Raby
      • WOA would tend to be in lighter tablets ...

        ... which would make sense for businesses to use in health and other scenarios where people might need to carry them on their person all the time.

        They would presumably also be cheaper so that they could be used more ubiquitously, such as being locked to patient beds.

        These scenarios would require require domain joining and policy management for best practice device management, so I am surprised that WOA is precluded, since it is the most likely competition for the few places that iPads have made more than incidental inroads into corporations.
        Patanjali
    • Yep and it makes sense, corporate customers will need x86 apps too.

      Yep and it makes sense, corporate customers will need x86 apps too.
      bradavon
  • what about Windows To Go?

    I was hoping to hear something about Windows To Go and where that falls in to the mix. Any chance you could try and dig that out of them for us, MJ?
    bc3tech
    • Imagex

      windows to go can now be done by simply using imagex and apply a win8 image onto the usb stick, and applying a bootsector, so technically this could be done by obtaining the waik. Of course, this might be restricted on the license side.
      sjaak327
  • Windows Media Center available only for Windows 8 Pro?

    It appears that WMC is available only as an add-on for Windows 8 Pro. It doesn't affect me, but it doesn't seem logical and judging by the comments, others are not happy.
    techvet
    • No WMC in consumer version?

      If that is true, I will be one of those not happy and I will not buy Windows 8!!!
      Aminifu321
      • Unfortunately...

        It will be the case according to Microsoft's own post. WMC is an add-on for the Pro version only.
        TheCyberKnight