Microsoft revealed its naming strategy for its upcoming Windows 8 OS this week. And in a seeming departure from the dizzying array of Windows editions in the past, the software giant has largely settled on three choices: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT.
Upon its release, the Windows 8 name will come to define the x86/64 editions of the OS, while Windows RT, formerly Windows on ARM (WOA), is strictly a pre-installed affair on ARM-based tablets and devices. All versions sport Metro, the company's tiled, touch-enabled interface in addition to traditional keyboard and mouse support.
Windows 8 is the consumer-friendly version of the OS, a successor of sorts to Windows 7 Starter and Home. In addition to a revamped Windows Explorer and Task Manager, the company also touts improved multi-monitor support and on-the-fly language switching.
For IT professionals and enthusiasts, there's Windows Pro. Best described as a melding of past Professional and Ultimate editions, it offers expanded options like encryption, virtualization and domain connectivity.
Corporate customers with Software Assurance agreements need not worry, a Windows 8 Enterprise version is in the works with Windows 8 Pro's features, plus the endpoint management capabilities they're accustomed to. Additionally, China and some emerging markets are getting local, language-only editions.
However, all eyes are on Windows RT.
As enterprises embrace mobility and Apple makes corporate computing inroads with its market-leading iPad, Microsoft's move to the low-power ARM platform comes at a critical time. It's a shift that comes with its share of compromises.
The biggest among those is the fact that traditional x86 Windows binaries won't run on the Win RT, robbing the ARM-enabled version of Windows of a deep and wide pool of business and consumer software options.
A product matrix posted by Brandon LeBlanc on The Windows Blog hints that Microsoft plans to combat this by leveraging its productivity suite in a bid to make Windows-powered tablets a common sight in businesses. Of the few Windows RT exclusives, bundled Microsoft Office looms large. LeBlanc writes, "Windows RT will include touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote."
He adds that growing the Windows RT apps ecosystem will take some adapting by the developer community. "For new apps, the focus for Windows RT is development on the new Windows runtime, or WinRT, which we unveiled in September and forms the foundation of a new generation of cloud-enabled, touch-enabled, web-connected apps of all kinds," he adds.