Microsoft has announced four different editions of Windows 8, targeting new and basic PC users, professionals and advanced PC users, mobile and tablet PC users and IT business-specific users at the same time. These 4 versions of Windows 8 are based on differences in OS features. In addition, Microsoft has announced the availability of region-specific editions, beginning with China. Apparently, Windows 8 will be offered at cheaper prices in China to counter the rampant software piracy there.
In this post, we shall take a look at the major differences between the four editions of Windows 8 and their upgrade compatibility for earlier Windows users (Windows 7 only).
An important point to note is that in all editions of Windows 8, you can install language packs, unlike Windows 7 in which only the Ultimate and Enterprise editions had that option.
As expected, this is the most basic version of the OS, and contains all the features most home users would need like the new semantic zoom enabled Start screen, Windows Store, IE10, Microsoft account integration, live titles, Windows desktop etc.
Windows 8 Pro
This is the Professional edition of Windows 8, and is best suited for previous Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate users. If you can easily learn to use new features and like playing with the latest technology, Windows 8 Pro is the way to go. It comes with added features like usability as Remote Desktop server, File Encryption System and Bit-Locker, Virtual Hard Disk boot, Hyper-V, Windows Media Center etc.
Windows 8 Enterprise
Offered only to Software Assurance customers, it has added features like Windows to Go, DirectAccess, BranchCache, AppLocker, virtualization by RemoteFX and Metro-style app deployment of internal applications.
Made specifically for ARM-based tablet PCs and named after Windows Runtime or WinRT, it comes with touch-optimized Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Windows RT also supports device encryption, but Group Policy and domain support are not available.
Upgrade compatibility of Windows 8 editions
Obviously, Windows 7 32-bit users can’t upgrade to a 64-bit version of Windows 8 and vice versa. So, 32-bit to 32-bit and 64-bit to 64-bit only. You could however do a clean install to go from 32-bit to 64-bit or 64-bit to 32-bit.
Windows 7 Home Premium, Home Basic and Starter users can upgrade to Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro as well as Enterprise editions.
Windows 7 Ultimate and Professional users can upgrade directly only to Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise. They would have to do a clean install in order to use the basic edition of Windows 8.
You can’t upgrade to Windows RT from any previous version though.
As per the official statement, all Windows 8 versions will be able to run on PCs with the same or lower system requirements as compared to PCs running Windows 7. So, if you are a Windows 7 user, you can upgrade to Windows 8 (compatibility as mentioned above) on the same PC, for just $40 according to Microsoft.