Microsoft today announced its lineup of SKUs for the new operating system, which is due to be released before December
PCs built around x86 and x64 processors, the lineup has been trimmed to two. Yes, you read that right. Windows 8 will ship in two editions:
- Windows 8 is the default consumer edition, replacing Windows 7 Home Premium. It includes the ability to switch languages on the fly, a feature that was previously available only in the most expensive Enterprise/Ultimate editions.
- Windows 8 Pro is a superset of Windows 8, with the addition of BitLocker encryption, support for virtualization, PC management, and domain connectivity.
For enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements, Microsoft will offer a separate edition that is a superset of Windows 8 Pro. Extra features in Windows 8 Enterprise will allow IT organizations to enable advanced PC management and deployment scenarios. Microsoft did not announce additional details of features in the new Enterprise edition.
Windows Media Center will be available as a “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro, at an “economical” price point that presumably covers the cost of licensing technology from Dolby Labs and other codec providers.
In a blog post announcing the editions, Microsoft also revealed that is plans to offer “a local language-only edition of Windows 8” for distribution in “China and a small set of select emerging markets.” This edition would presumably replace the low-cost Starter Edition, and the single-language restriction would make it more difficult to transfer these low-cost editions into higher-priced Western markets.
Microsoft did not announce any pricing information for any of the Windows 8 editions.
The decision to radically simplify the Windows 8 product lineup is a surprise. Some Windows 8 rumor trackers, after poking through the Windows 8 registry, had speculated that Microsoft could release as many as nine flavors of Windows 8.