Microsoft Reveals Windows 10 Version Lineup

Microsoft on Wednesday announced its lineup of Windows 10 SKUs.

The company did not reveal any in-depth details about each edition, so those wanting more information will have to wait. In a nutshell, however, the editions are:

Windows 10 Edition Market Description
Home Consumer Contains Photos, Maps, Mail, Calendar, Music and Video "universal Windows apps." Cortana personal assistant available in "select markets" at launch. Windows Hello security feature depends on having specialized hardware.
Mobile Consumer/business Contains same universal apps as described above, but also a "touch-optimized version of Office."
Pro Small business Designed for "choose your own device" programs. Can elect Windows Update for Business update process.
Enterprise Volume Licensing customers Based on Pro edition but "supports the broadest range of options for operating system deployment and comprehensive device and app management." Option to use Windows Update for Business or Long Term Servicing Branch update processes.
Mobile Enterprise Volume Licensing customers For use with "smartphones and small tablets." Offers "flexible ways for businesses to manage updates."
Industry Devices (Embedded) Developers, device makers Versions of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise for industry devices, along with a Windows 10 IoT Core for small-footprint devices.
Education Academic Volume Licensing Based on Enterprise edition. Will permit student upgrades from Home and Pro editions.

Windows 10 product editions expected to arrive this summer. Source: Microsoft blog post of May 13.

Notably, Office universal Windows apps are only described as coming with the Windows 10 Mobile edition, which can be used by consumers and businesses. (Read more about the Windows 10 mobile SKUs here.) However, it's expected that Microsoft will require Office licensing for commercial use of these apps, so much remains to be described.

Also not described are further details about the free Windows 10 upgrade offer. This offer will apply to users of Windows 7 Service Pack 1, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 if they upgrade within a year of Windows 10's launch. Enterprise edition and Windows RT users are excluded.

Some of Windows 10's features were described in the announcement, but feature availability per Windows 10 edition wasn't described in great detail.

The Continuum feature of Windows 10, which lets so-called "two-in-one" devices switch the user interface between tablet or PC modes, is just described as being part of the Home and Mobile editions, although it likely will work across all editions. Microsoft, though, has previously indicated that the size of the device may matter. For instance, Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the Operating Systems Group at Microsoft, has previously indicated that it will be possible for owners of 7-inch devices to upgrade to Windows 10 and retain the desktop user interface with the Continuum feature. Retaining the desktop mode is an important consideration for some organizations and individuals because it lets them run older Win32 apps.

Other features beside Continuum include an updated Start Menu, a single Windows Store to get universal apps that can run across different device form factors and the new Cortana personal assistant, which has been integrated into the Windows 10 operating system. Microsoft isn't promising, though, that Cortana will be available across all markets when the finished Windows 10 product is released.

Windows 10 also will come with the new Edge browser, formerly code-named "Spartan," which will be the default browser, although Internet Explorer 11 also will ship with the new operating system. The Edge browser will be the only default choice available on mobile devices, though, according to veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley.

Windows 10 also will have various security features, including a Device Guard anti-malware option for business users and a Windows Hello biometric identity feature, although Windows Hello use will depend on having specific hardware on a device.

The Enterprise, Mobile Enterprise and Education editions all will require Volume Licensing agreements. Microsoft has various volume licensing plans that vary depending on the size of organizations (more than 250 licenses or less than 250 licenses). Further info on Windows 10 licensing, though, doesn't seem to be available at this point, nor is pricing known.

Summer Release
Windows 10, which is currently at the "preview" stage, is expected to be released as a final product sometime this summer. The exact release date hasn't been specified by Microsoft but it's rumored to be planned for the end of July.

Microsoft's announcement also alluded to a Windows 10 update coming this fall that will add "more advanced security and management capabilities for businesses." Such a summer/fall release cycle is reminiscent of a rumored "Redstone" release cycle planned for next year, which also has summer and fall release cycles. Foley has explained that Redstone will deliver the Windows features that did not make the 2015 cut.

Nothing was mentioned on Wednesday about a future "Windows 10 RT" PC release. It's possible that the ARM chip-based side of the business has withered, except perhaps for industry devices. Microsoft did end its Surface 2 device production some months ago, which used the Windows 8 RT OS, but it hasn't said much about the ARM side of things with regard to Windows 10 PCs.

Lots of questions about Windows 10 still remain, even though its release is but a few months away. We don't know the free upgrade paths yet. For instance, will the Windows 7 Ultimate edition have a free upgrade path to the Windows 10 Pro edition or to the Windows 10 Home edition? It's not clear if Windows 10, which Microsoft currently describes as "Windows as a service," will be available in traditional retail "boxed" form.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.