Windows 8 is soon to be upon us and with that comes the confusion over which edition you will require and what each edition does once installed, so let's start by taking a look at what we can expect to see hit retailers on release day and try to help you find which copy of Windows 8 is best for you.
There is always some confusion when a new edition of Windows is released, it happened with Windows 7, Vista and the many that preceded them all. With a mixture of packages from Home, Home Premium, Ultimate and Pro to name but a few, you would think that it's as simple as "Ultimate" is better than the standard one. This however, isn't the case. More features doesn't always translate as better, or more useful to the consumer. Just because a feature or piece of software is included doesn't mean you need it, or want it, so it's always best to research these things first and you might even save your self a bit of money if you do.
So what editions can I expect upon release?
There will be 4 editions of Windows 8 upon release, these are;
Windows 8 RT
Windows 8 Pro
Windows 8 Enterprise
But what do these editions mean to me?
Windows 8 RT
This edition is not available for purchase, yet it's likely to be one of the most common editions on the market, at least that's what Microsoft is hoping anyway. This edition will come pre-installed on devices that run the ARM (32-bit) architecture, such as tablet devices, some laptops/netbooks, mobile phones and no doubt some other portable devices we haven't seen announced yet. This is basically a highly optimized Windows 8 that has a better focus on touch input, power conservation and mobility.
This is the cut and shut basic edition of Windows 8, it does everything your day to day user will require and will be the main seller when it comes to the general public who are looking to either buy a new OS for their system or upgrade from Windows Vista or Windows 7. It will also be capable of running on systems that work on IA-32 (32-bit), x86-64 (64-bit) architectures, for those who don't know this is generally any Intel or AMD processor on the market from the last 20 years or so, but also includes the newer Intel Atom processors.
Windows 8 PRO
This is essentially the business edition of Windows 8, this is the one consumers need to watch out for, because in 99% of cases you will not need to purchase Pro. Pro does everything that the standard Windows 8 does, but with the addition of being able to use a remote desktop session as client or host, whereas standard Windows 8 can only access this feature as a client, Pro also comes equipped with BitLocker and EFS encryption features, Boot from Virtual Hard Drive, the ability to join a Windows domain, apple group policies and if you have the 64-bit edition and a "SLAT" capable CPU you can also use Hyper-V (server virtualization). If you have no idea what any of that means, you don't need Windows 8 Pro, if on the other hand you need these features to operate and run your business, network or anything else, then you WILL need Pro.
Windows 8 Enterprise
Another edition you likely won't see at retail, at least not on the high street, as this is intended for larger companies, businesses and so on and will be sold with a Volume License, one key for many computers, as such its price will reflect this. If you are looking into the purchase of Enterprise you will find all the features from pro, with the addition of AppLocker, Windows To Go, DirectAccess, BranchCache, RemoteFX and the ability to install Windows RT apps from outside the Windows Store.
Ok so that's the big stuff out of the way, what else?
RT will come pre-installed with some trials of the touch editions of Microsoft Office software Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, this does not come pre-installed on any other edition.
Windows Media Center is no longer included with any edition of Windows 8, but it can be purchased via an add-in on Windows 8 Pro.
All editions come with the standard apps, Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, Reader, Music, Video and SkyDrive.
Any editions (at retail) will be available in European markets designated "Windows 8 N" or "Pro N" etc, these indicate that the edition does not come preinstalled with Windows Media Player.
I'm looking to upgrade my Windows 7 to Windows 8, will I need to do a fresh install?
No Windows 7 devices can be upgraded to Windows 8 RT.
Windows 7 Starter, Basic or Premium will upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro.
Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate will upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, but only Windows 7 Professional can be upgraded to Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 7 Ultimate can not.
Windows 7 Enterprise will only upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise.
If going from a IA-32 or X64 or Windows 7, you must upgrade to the matching IA-32 or X64 edition of windows 8
Hopefully this has helped to clear up a few of the questions surrounding which edition of Windows 8 you will be looking to purchase, if you're on the market for an ARM (mobile platform) device then it should come installed with Windows 8. If it doesn't, then it is not a Windows 8 device.
If you're a general day to day home user you will be looking for Windows 8 or Windows 8 N, dependant on your needs for Windows Media Player, Windows 8 Pro is targeted towards both business and enthusiasts, but has little to offer to the general consumer in terms of extra features
Finally the Enterprise edition of Windows 8 is meant for the professional business market and mostly IT organizations.
Windows 8 is set for its initial release on October 26th 2012.