Microsoft outlines Windows 8 editions

Well, it's official: Windows 8 will be available in three editions. Microsoft spilled the beans on the different variants of its upcoming operating system yesterday afternoon: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT.

Folks running standard x86 PCs will only need concern themselves with the first two editions. Windows RT, Microsoft says, is just another name for Windows on ARM. It will come pre-installed on ARM-powered tablets, will feature bundled Office applications, and won't work on x86 machines.

Meanwhile, as you'd expect, vanilla Windows 8 will have almost everything home users need, and Windows 8 Pro will throw in some extras for businesses and power users. Microsoft's blog post has a long feature table with different assortments of check marks for each edition, but the following snippet about sums it up:

Windows 8 Pro is designed to help tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals obtain a broader set of Windows 8 technologies. It includes all the features in Windows 8 plus features for encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity.

Now, there will be a twist: Microsoft says Windows Media Center "will be available as an economical 'media pack' add-on to Windows 8 Pro." Since I don't see home-theater capabilities in the feature list for vanilla Windows 8, it sounds like you'll need to splurge for the (presumably pricier) Pro edition and surrender additional cash to get Windows Media Center. If true, that would be a pretty stark change of policy from Windows 7 Home Premium, which is cheaper than Windows 7 Pro and comes with Windows Media Center out of the box.

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