Ina Fried

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Microsoft Opts Against 31 Flavors for Windows 8, but Still Adds Unfamiliar Tastes

Microsoft plans fewer different packages of Windows 8 than it has offered with past incarnations of its flagship operating system.

In a blog post late Monday, Microsoft said it will offer only two main options for Windows 8 on traditional PC processors — Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Microsoft will also have an enterprise version for large businesses with volume-licensing deals.

The big change with Windows 8 is an all-new version for computers running the ARM-based chips more commonly found on smartphones and tablets than in full-fledged computers. That flavor, known as Windows RT, includes a version of Office, but won’t be able to run other traditional Windows apps.

All flavors of Windows 8 will be able to run new-style Metro apps designed for the new operating system, but only Intel- and AMD-powered machines will be able to run older programs.

Microsoft didn’t disclose how much it will charge for the new Windows, nor would it confirm when the operating system will arrive, though it is widely expected later this year.

While still presenting consumers with several options, the move is a notable slimming down for Microsoft, which has in the past also had options like Home Basic, Home Premium, Starter, Ultimate, Media Center and Tablet PC Editions.

Redmond has come under fire in the past for offering so many different pricing options with Windows. Windows 7 had nearly as many versions as Windows Vista, though most customers were steered toward the Home Premium or Pro versions of the operating system.

And while it won’t have a “Starter” version of the operating system as such, Microsoft is doing much the same thing with Windows 8, adding it would have a “local-language-only edition of Windows 8” for China and “a small set of select emerging markets.”

That option gives Microsoft a way to offer cheaper prices in high-piracy areas while maintaining its profit margins in its more mature markets.

Microsoft also reiterated in the blog post that Windows RT will have many of the features consumers tend to expect from Windows, but won’t have some key business-oriented features, such as the ability to join a corporate domain.

That version also won’t contain Windows Media Player, the music- and video-playing app that has been a staple of Windows.

Windows 8, in all its versions, will come standard with Metro applications for managing email, calendar, photos, instant messaging, music and videos. In general, developers will have to distribute their Metro apps using a new Windows Store that is built into the new operating system.

A consumer preview version of Windows 8 was made available at Mobile World Congress in February and a near-final release candidate will follow at an unspecified date. Developers were given an earlier test version last fall.


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