Today Microsoft came clean about the official product name and versions of the next version of Windows. As expected the development name of Windows 8 will in fact be the product name for the x86/64 editions of Windows. What was unexpected in today’s announcement was the ARM-based tablet variant being called Windows RT.
Windows has been heavily criticized in the past for having a complicated lineup of versions or SKUs of the product. Take Vista for example, there were 6 versions to choose from, Windows 7 didn’t improve with again 6 options, but Windows 8 will drop to just 3. This simplification of Windows 8 variants is a welcome change and will avoid unnecessary consumer confusion as to which one they should purchase.
Windows RT, the new name for Windows on ARM, also known as WOA, is an interesting decision indeed. If that name sounds familiar, its because the System Service layer of Windows 8 applications is named WinRT. WinRT APIs that are accessed from this layer include Communication and Data, Graphics & Media and Devices & Printing to form the Application Model. While the general public won’t have knowledge of this branding, developer conversations will now need to qualified..
The differentiation between two almost identical tablets on store shelves will undoubtedly result in customer confusion. Will customers really know the difference between the the low-powered, ARM-powered Windows RT edition and the multi-core Intel version sitting right next to it? Consumers are savvy enough to know 8 is better than 7 and the mental jump from Windows 7 to Windows 8 is an easy one. The marketing of Windows RT however, will need to be extraordinarily strong given RT will be unknown to most.
Microsoft announced the version details and naming in a blog post on the Windows Team Blog. If you’d like to discover which features are in which version, then head to the blog for a pretty extensive table (too long to embed here). A couple of important things to point out are that Windows RT tablets will have the Desktop mode. Also the Metro-style Office apps we’ve seen previewed will come pre-installed on Windows RT, but that version will not have Media Player.
For those Media Center fans, the Windows Media Center app won’t be included out of the download, but will be available via a “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro. This seems like a strange decision given Media Center in Windows 8 hasn’t really changed and has seen much more use in the home than in business.
If you are currently running the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and wondering which version you have, development versions of Windows contain the highest level of features. Only once the retail release of Windows 8 will these version become important, but with Windows 8 designed for consumers and Windows 8 Pro for the enterprise / enthusiast, it will now be an easy decision.
More info @ Windows Team Blog