It may sound crazy, but even though users have started downloading the final Windows 8 bits over the past couple of weeks, there are still lots of questions about the product -- and its ARM-based complement, Windows RT.
Luckily, a few of the folks writing Windows 8 books are providing some answers.
Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera, coauthors of Windows 8 Secrets, posted this week a handy feature-comparison matrix, listing a couple dozen features that are supported to varying degrees in Windows 8 (the consumer SKU), Windows 8 Professional, Windows 8 Enterprise and Windows RT. They created this chart using a tool Rivera wrote, and acknowledge that it is generating the best-available (though maybe not entirely accurate) data at this point.
I asked the Windows team about the codecs and sideloading specifically, as many of my readers were asking about those two points in particular. Here's what a company spokesperson told me via e-mail:
Re: Codecs: "There’s a chart on the B8 blog “Building a rich and extensible media platform” that explicitly shows that several of those codecs will be available on Windows RT. MPEG-2 is the only one called out in their piece that is actually not going to be available on Windows RT. The others will be. It also says 'Formats popular among the enthusiast community or with specific developers such as FLAC, MKV, and OGG, can have their own CODECs packaged as part of a Metro style app, since the Windows 8 media platform is highly extensible,' Which implies the options can be extended through apps.
Re: Sideloading business apps on Windows RT machines: "It’s a bit nuanced as the process itself is somewhat different in Windows RT, but the below excerpt from this post, 'Managing 'BYO' PCs in the enterprise' (including Windows on ARM), explains how the side-loading of LOB (line of business) apps concept will for Windows RT –- it’s admittedly slightly different from the x86 side-loading process but the idea remains the same."
In related news of potential interest to enterprise users looking at Windows 8. Microsoft has made available for download versions of a handful of its enterprise deployment tools that now support Windows 8. This includes the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK), which replaces the Windows Automated Installation Kit for Windows 7; the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2012 Update 1, which integrates all the ADK tools into a single deployment process; and the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit 7.0, which helps for planning migrations to Windows 8 Enterprise.