Microsoft Corp. this week announced that its next-generation Windows 8 operating system will be available in three versions later this year. Two versions will be designed for x86 processors and one will be aimed at ARM-powered systems. All three will support touch-screen, keyboard and mouse, all general capabilities of Windows and Metro-style apps. The version for ARM will also include touch-optimized versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
For PCs and tablets powered by x86 processors, Microsoft will offer two editions: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Windows 8 will include all the general features of Windows, updated Windows Explorer, Task Manager, better multi-monitor support and the ability to switch languages on the fly (which was previously only available in Enterprise/Ultimate editions of Windows). Windows 8 Pro is designed for tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals, it features for encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity. Windows Media Center will be available as an economical “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro.
Windows RT, the newest member of the Windows family (Windows on ARM or WOA), will only be available pre-installed on PCs and tablets powered by ARM processors and will help enable new thin and lightweight form-factors with impressive battery life. Windows RT will include touch-optimized desktop versions of the new Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. For new apps, the focus for Windows RT is development on the new Windows runtime, or WinRT, that enables cloud-enabled, touch-enabled, web-connected apps of all kinds. Windows RT will not run traditional x86 applications and will only be compatible with Metro-style apps. Besides, Windows RT will come without Windows Media Player, Storage Spaces and some other features.
It is noteworthy that in a bid to avoid confusion caused by many versions of Windows, Microsoft decided to offer only two versions of Windows 8 for x86 systems, just like it did over a decade ago with Windows XP. It remains to be seen how much the company will charge for the premium version of Windows 8 as $399 for Ultimate version of the OS was considered too much by many.
Microsoft Windows 8 will become available later this year, although Microsoft has never officially confirmed this.