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Windows 8: Introduction, Versions & Upgrade Paths

Windows 8: Introduction, Versions & Upgrade Paths


Windows 8 Editions

Windows 8 Editions

Windows 8 will be offered in four different versions - Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows RT, and Windows 8 Enterprise. This is much less compared to Windows 7’s bewildering six different versions.

For consumers using x86-based (both 32-bit and 64-bit) PCs and tablets, there are two editions to choose from: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. As the name implies, Windows 8 Pro is more for tech enthusiasts and business users. In addition to the new, basic Windows 8 features such as the Start screen, updated File Explorer, Task Manager, better multi-monitor support, Internet Explorer 10, and Windows Store (among many others), it also sports features for encryption, virtualization, PC management, and domain connectivity.

For devices such as tablets running on ARM chips, there's a version called Windows RT that will come pre-installed on the devices. So technically, you can't buy it. And obviously, you can't upgrade to it from any other version of Windows. The most important thing to note is that Windows RT doesn’t allow you to run legacy desktop software. Yes, there are some apps that run on the Windows RT desktop, such as Internet Explorer 10 and Office, but these are Microsoft apps. No third-party apps are allowed to run on the Windows RT desktop. In addition, Microsoft will include Office Home & Student 2013 RT on all Windows RT devices. For the most part, Office for Windows RT is a fully featured Office with complete document compatibility, and it certainly looks very similar to the non-RT version. But to fulfill security, reliability, and battery life requirements of Windows RT devices, some features have to go in Office for Windows RT, which you read more about it here.

At the other end is Windows 8 Enterprise. It includes all features of Windows 8 Pro, as well as addition features for PC management and deployment, advanced security, virtualization, and new mobility scenarios, among others. This edition is available to Software Assurance customers, as well as MSDN and TechNet subscribers.

Here's a table detailing the features of Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT (Source: Microsoft).

Feature Name / OS

Windows 8

Windows 8 Pro

Windows RT

Upgrades from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium

x

x

 

Upgrades from Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate

 

x

 

Start Screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles

x

x

x

Windows Store

x

x

x

Apps (Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, SkyDrive, Reader, Music, Video)

x

x

x

Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote)

   

x

Internet Explorer 10

x

x

x

Device Encryption

   

x

Connected Standby

x

x

x

Microsoft Account

x

x

x

Desktop

x

x

x

Installation of x86/64 & Desktop Software

x

x

 

Updated Windows Explorer

x

x

x

Windows Defender

x

x

x

SmartScreen

x

x

x

Windows Update

x

x

x

Enhanced Task Manager

x

x

x

Switch Languages on the Fly (Language Packs)

x

x

x

Better Multiple Monitor Support

x

x

x

Storage Spaces

x

x

 

Windows Media Player

x

x

 

Exchange ActiveSync

x

x

x

File History

x

x

x

ISO / VHD Mount

x

x

x

Mobile Broadband Features

x

x

x

Picture Password

x

x

x

Play To

x

x

x

Remote Desktop (Client)

x

x

x

Reset & Refresh Your PC

x

x

x

Snap

x

x

x

Touch & Thumb Keyboard

x

x

x

Trusted Boot

x

x

x

VPN Client

x

x

x

BitLocker & BitLocker To Go

 

x

 

Boot from VHD

 

x

 

Client Hyper-V

 

x

 

Domain Join

 

x

 

Encrypting File System

 

x

 

Group Policy

 

x

 

Remote Desktop (Host)

 

x

 

Windows 8 Enterprise will have all the features from Windows 8 Pro, but with added features that will aid IT specialists in PC management and deployment, advanced security features, and more.

For real tech nerds who want the most comprehensive breakdown of features in each Windows 8 edition, you can check out this table at Within Windows.