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Windows 9 will come in three main flavors
It's still early days for Windows 9 (given it's not supposedly even yet in development and won't be until next month). But sources have told me that Microsoft is leaning toward fewer SKUs, or versions, with Windows 9.
Word is there could be three primary SKUs: A "modern" consumer SKU; a traditional/PC SKU; and a traditional enterprise SKU.
The modern SKU would be focused on delivering WinRT apps. This SKU may be available for both ARM- and Intel-based devices, but wouldn't be optimized to run Desktop/Win32 apps. A more traditional consumer SKU would include the Desktop and be updated through the Windows Store, like Windows 8 is now. A traditional Enterprise SKU would support Win 32 apps and have all the usual bells and whistles. It may be for volume licensees only.
Windows 9 will *not* do away with the Metro design language or the tiled Metro interface/start screen.
Metro haters: Windows 9 is not your savior. Windows 9 is still expected to feature the Metro-Style/tiled Start Screen that Microsoft first introduced with Windows 8.
According to Windows SuperSite Editor Paul Thurrott's sources, Windows 9 will feature an updated 2.0 version of the Metro design language.
Image: Ed Bott ZDNet
Sources are claiming that Microsoft will deliver three "milestones" along the Windows 9 road.
We don't yet know which, if any, of these will be test builds open to the public. There's speculation that the three will be something along the lines of a beta/preview, a near-final release candidate (RC) and then the RTM (release to manufacturing) bits.
If the new unified operating system organization continues to distance itself from the previous Windows management, there's a chance that Microsoft might try to bring more external testers back into the Windows fold. With Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft largely cut tester feedback out of its development equation, and instead relied on selected "telemetry" data to make decisions about product features and functionality.
Image: Microsoft panel from Windows 8 CNET