Following much rumor and speculation, Microsoft has just announced the final Windows 8 SKUs, as well as reaffirm that Windows 8 is the official, final name of the upcoming OS. Prior to clicking on the link to the announcement post on the Windows Team Blog, I was slightly nervous; Microsoft is notorious among the tech community for their unnecessarily complicated product branding. Expecting the worst, I was actually quite delighted to see that Microsoft… actually simplified the number of editions in Windows 8!
There are three main SKUs that consumers should care about – Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT – and two other SKUs for enterprise clients and for those in emerging markets. Windows 8 essentially envelops what was Home Basic and Home Premium in the past, offering everything that fits the bill of most users. Windows 8 Pro on the other hand offers features that will come in handy to businesses and enthusiast users, offering encryption, virtualization, PC management, and domain connectivity features that most normal consumers do not need.
And that brings us to Windows RT. Described as the newest member of the Windows family, Windows RT is essentially the final branding of Windows on ARM (WOA). This edition will only be available pre-installed on ARM PCs and tablets, and will include – for free – touch-optimized versions of Office 15 applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
So, on the consumer front, there you have it. In fact, there are technically only two SKUs that you will have to choose from on an actual store shelf, which is quite awesome.
Windows 8 Enterprise will of course pack all of the features of Windows 8 Pro on top of additional features tailored towards the needs of a big business/enterprise. This version of Windows 8 is dedicated to customers with Software Assurance agreements with the company. And finally, Microsoft has a SKU especially targeted towards China and some other emerging markets, with a tailored, local language-only version of Windows 8. I like to call this SKU "Pirate Edition".
Nevertheless, it looks quite good as a whole! My only gripe with the new naming scheme is dubbing WOA "Windows RT". This was a terrible naming choice in my opinion as Microsoft’s new programming model is called WinRT. Not only does it make it confusing, but the "RT" term has absolutely zero meaning to consumers. It’s a rather peculiar choice that goes to show that, even in SKU simplification, Microsoft couldn’t completely give up its naming shenanigans.