Microsoft has revealed that it will release the operating system with half the number of editions that Windows 7 had.
When Microsoft's newest operating system goes on sale, consumers will be able to pick up two versions from the shelf — Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro — while corporations will additionally have access to a specially tailored Windows 8 Pro Enterprise edition.
The choice to reduce what editions are available greatly simplifies users' options, compared to Windows 7, which shipped with five editions for consumers and an additional enterprise edition for corporations.
Both Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will come in 32- and 64-bit variations for x86 processors. This a marked contrast to the entry-level Windows 7 Starter edition, which notably did not support 64-bit processors.
Microsoft believes that the base Windows 8 edition will be appropriate for most users. According to the company, this edition will include an updated Windows Explorer, Task Manager, better multi-monitor support and the ability to switch languages on the fly, which was previously only available in Enterprise/Ultimate editions of Windows.
Microsoft points enthusiasts and small business users to its Pro edition, which additionally contains encryption, virtualisation, PC management and domain-connectivity features. Users wishing to use Windows 8 as a media centre will also be required to use the Pro edition, as Windows Media Center is available only as an add-on to Windows 8 Pro.
While the company has not gone into further depth as to what will be included in the Pro Enterprise edition, it has stated that it will build on the feature set of the Pro edition, and add support for PC management and deployment, advanced security, virtualisation and new mobility options.
Other changes to Windows' editions include the development of local language-only versions of Windows 8. Microsoft has indicated that these editions will be available in China and a few other markets.
While Windows 8 has been designed to work on tablets that use x86 processors, it also has a standalone version of Windows for ARM processors that it has called Windows RT. While the company has dropped the "8" from the edition title, it is essentially Windows 8 built specifically for the ARM architecture. Users will not be able to purchase it off the shelf, however. Instead, it will only be available pre-installed on PCs and tablets. As previously noted, this is due the fact that the ARM architecture is not standardised, and the software on each device is unique to it.
Windows RT will also come bundled with versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that have been optimised for touchscreens.
Microsoft has yet to announce pricing for each of the editions, but, according to the company, will do so in the coming months.