Ha! I bet you thought, along with everyone else, that Microsoft’s Windows 10 would just come in one version for consumers, doing away with the Professional and Home editions of previous versions of Windows that made choosing a device a little more complicated. Well, I’m sad to say that Microsoft did not think that idea was awesome and they’ve chosen to once again segment Windows 10 into different editions for different platforms. More info after the jump.
As before, there will be Windows 10 Home, the edition that you’ll run into the most on most desktops, laptops and small-form-factor devices. This edition will pretty much match the features in Windows 8.1 Core, with the same hardware limitations for the 64-bit version (the only version you should be running if you can help it) of one physical CPU and up to 128GB of system RAM. Windows 10 Professional builds on that with the same features and limitations of Windows 8.1 Professional, and there will be upgrade packs to move from Home to Pro.
A new SKU which you’ll run into if you’re a student or working at at school or university is Windows 10 Education, a special version of the OS available through Academic Licensing schemes. Its a little cheaper than buying up Enterprise licenses, but it’s not available to the public either. The Education version mixes up some of the features from Pro and Enterprise such as Bitlocker drive encryption and a host of other software that helps protect the OS from virus infections and the like.
There’s a possibility that this version also includes a persistent mode, which would be useful to keep people from toying around with the installation. Windows 10 Education does have an upgrade path from both Home and Pro versions of the OS, so you don’t have to worry about licensing if you’re an IT manager in charge of an Education rollout to students or staff.
For mobiles, like phones and tablets, Windows 10 comes in two versions – Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise. The former is the regular, average-Joe kind of setup that you’ll get from any Windows 10 Mobile device, which includes the Continuum feature. The Enterprise version offers better security for business users along with flexibility in how updates are pushed to the device and what kind of apps are available to download in the Windows Store.
Microsoft is also adopting a new approach to supporting their customers and this looks very much like Canonical’s approach to different versions of Ubuntu. At the consumer level, you’ll get access to all the updates as they’re available (no more Patch Tuesdays) and you’ll be able to grab preview builds of new versions of Windows as well as benefit from continuous upgrades. Support ends with the device’s death. So, in essence, if you buy a PC with Windows 10 Home, as long as that motherboard and storage drive functions, you’ll be able to upgrade to newer versions of Windows free of charge.
The CBB is sort of an extended support cycle for volume license customers, but it’s more like a snapshot of the current state of Windows as things stand. You can delay non-critical updates for testing and you’ll be able to upgrade to any one of the three most recent LTS versions of Windows released since you activated your license. If Microsoft sticks to releasing new versions of Windows every year, that means your support period is four years long.
The LTS branch is reserved for large, slow-moving enterprises that don’t upgrade Windows nearly as often as they should. Support for LTS versions sits at ten years total, more than enough for any business to preserve long-term stability and short enough to encourage those same businesses to upgrade to another LTS branch when support and licensing for your current setup expires.
Windows 10 is scheduled to be launched in early 2H 2015, possibly as early as July if things go according to plan for Microsoft. Pricing of the Home and Professional editions of Windows 10 is not available yet, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t change at all from what vendors are charging for Windows 8.1 right now.