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Which Version of Windows 8 is Right for You?

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As Windows 8 approaches public release later this year, Microsoft has released details about the various editions of the new operating system that will become available. A lot has changed compared to Windows 7 and previous versions of the Windows operating system.

Windows 8 Editions

As a previous Windows user you will find that the new editions make a whole lot of sense in terms of simplifying the product offerings. Consider that Windows 7 alone had six different editions: Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise.

Microsoft has simplified editions in the latest version of Windows 8, find out which one is right for you.

Windows 8 (For the Consumer)

This is the consumer version of Windows 8 that excludes a lot of the business-type features like drive encryption, group policy and virtualization. However, you will have access to the Windows Store, Live Tiles, Remote Desktop Client, VPN Client and other features.

Windows 8 Pro (For Enthusiasts & Professionals/Businesses)

Pro is the edition of Windows 8 for the PC enthusiast and business/technical professionals.

It includes everything found in 8 plus features like BitLocker encryption, PC virtualization, domain connectivity and PC management. Definitely geared towards corporate environments.

Windows 8 Enterprise (The Enterprise)

Includes all that Windows 8 Pro has, but geared towards enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements.

Windows 8 RT (ARM or WOA)

RT (Windows Runtime AKA WinRT) is the newest addition to the list of Windows editions. It is specifically designed for ARM-based devices like tablets, ARM-powered PCs and any other devices that support the ARM architecture and are designed to run Windows 8 RT.

The operating system will be pre-loaded much like a tablet running Android or iOS ships with the operating system preinstalled and configured. It also means that you will probably not be able to load RT onto any tablet or device.

The nice thing about Windows RT is that it offers device-level encryption and the touch-based Office suite as part of the operating system, so you won't have to go buy a copy of Office or worry about data exposure.

Note: ARM is a processor architecture used in devices like mobile phones, tablets and some computers. WOA refers to Windows on ARM or Windows 8 RT which runs on ARM-based devices.

As you can see Microsoft has introduced an entirely (architecturally) different edition of Windows to bring the PC operating system to form factors where Windows was not traditionally optimized for.

Focus in 8: The Cloud, Touch and Apps

This is a great step in the right direction for Microsoft because Windows 8 RT will also sport touch enabled versions of Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) that will leverage touch, the cloud (SkyDrive) and Apps.

One thing to keep in mind with Windows RT is that it will not be able to run x86/64 and desktop applications. You are limited to offerings from the Windows Store and any other applications you can side-load.

Can I Upgrade to Windows 8?

Windows 8  can be installed as an upgrade from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic and Home Premium. Users wanting to upgrade to 8 Pro will need to have Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate.

So if you are running Windows Vista or XP, chances are you probably need a new PC already otherwise you will end up having to buy the full version of Windows 8. Pricing hasn't been announced yet, but with increased price pressure from Apple, specifically pricing for Mac OS X updates that run for about $30 a pop, should signal for lower prices from Microsoft.

If you want to learn more about the features breakdown between editions, make sure to head over to the Microsoft Blog for a table describing key features between editions.

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