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Microsoft Reveals More Details About Windows 10 Editions

Microsoft on Thursday shared more information about the upcoming Windows 10 release, including which editions will get which features.

Participants of Microsoft's Windows Insider program, of which there are currently 5 million, will be among the first to receive Windows 10 on its July 29 launch date, according to a blog post by Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group.

The Home and Pro editions of Windows 10 will be available on July 29. Starting on Aug. 1, volume licensing customers will be able to download the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10 from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center.

Other Edition Details
Microsoft previously described the edition names back in May. Missing from Myerson's announcement on Thursday was any mention of the Mobile and Industry (Windows Embedded) editions. It's not clear when those editions will be available.

Although Myerson didn't mention it, Microsoft officials have talked about a second Windows 10 release happening in the fall. It might be that the other editions will appear then, or the fall release might signify some more finalized form of Windows 10.

Microsoft's OEM partners will have Windows 10 "soon" for imaging on new hardware, Myerson said. He was referring to Microsoft's traditional "release-to-manufacturing" (RTM) date, which is when OEMs prepare new devices for sale. Myerson did not mention a date for this RTM release of Windows 10.

Traditionally, the RTM happens before Microsoft's "general availability" (GA) release, which signifies a finalized commercial software product release. However, Microsoft seems to have dispensed with using the GA term with Windows 10. While the July 29 release could be the GA release date, it doesn't sound like it is.

There also will be a "retail" release of Windows 10 at some unspecified date. Myerson just described the retail version as being designed to facilitate machine upgrades, but there will be "full" and "upgrade" retail versions, according to Microsoft MVP Andre Da Costa's description in this Microsoft community forum page.

Consumers with Windows 7 or Windows 8 who reserved the free Windows 10 upgrade using Microsoft's "reservation app" notice on their machines will get a notice about the upgrade "starting on July 29," according to Myerson. The upgrade happens when Windows 10 is downloaded and the app "confirms you will have a great experience," he explained. As for when the upgrade happens, Myerson did not say. If a system isn't ready for a Windows 10 upgrade, Microsoft will provide contact information, either to an "application provider or device manufacturer," Myerson indicated.

For more on Windows 10 upgrade details, see the upgrade Q&A put together by Da Costa.

Core and Business Experiences
The Home, Pro, Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10 all will have so-called "core experiences." Core experiences are capabilities that are common across all editions. Examples include the Cortana personal assistant, the Windows Hello biometric security feature, application snapping, virtual desktops (a way to set up different desktop views), the Edge Web browser and the Continuum interface switcher for devices that can convert from tablets to PCs.

Windows 10 also will have so-called "business experiences" that will vary among the editions. The distinctions mostly show up with the Home and Pro editions. Both of those editions lack some of the features used for business purposes, such as Direct Access, Windows To Go, AppLocker, BranchCache and Group Policy controls for the Start Screen, among others.

The Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10 are equivalent in terms of feature support. The main exception is that the Enterprise edition is the only edition with a "long-term servicing branch" option.

Microsoft has proposed three update models for Windows 10. The "current branch" model will stream updates to devices, somewhat like Windows Update does at present but current branch users won't be able to put off the updates. The "current branch for business" model will permit update deferrals for eight months. The long-term servicing branch option will be the more traditional model. Organizations using the long-term servicing branch model will be able to update at a service pack-level pace.

Microsoft has published tables listing those core experiences and business experiences of Windows 10, per edition. Not all of the features listed in the tables will be available on July 29.

Mysterious Features
Some of the features listed in the core experiences and business experiences tables have not been described before by Microsoft. One example is the "Granular UX Control" feature. It's available with the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10 only, but it's not clear what it does.

"Credential Guard" is also an undefined feature of the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10. Whatever it is, it will require the use of UEFI 2.3.1 or greater on the hardware, plus specific Intel and AMD virtualization extension technologies.

Microsoft has previously described Device Guard, another feature that will just be available on the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10. There's even an MSDN library article describing it. Device Guard is a security feature that uses virtualization to insulate the Windows 10 kernel. It will have hardware requirements much like the mysterious Credential Guard feature.

"Enterprise Data Protection" will be a feature available on the Pro, Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10. It's actually a Microsoft code word at this point, according to this MSDN library article describing it. Enterprise Data Protection is a "data leakage" protection feature, according to the article. It can isolate personal and corporate data for security purposes and works with Intune, System Center Configuration Manager or mobile device management products. It may require the use of the Windows or Azure Rights Management Service (RMS), but that's not too clear from the MSDN article. Myerson said that Enterprise Data Protection in Windows 10 will be available "later this year."

There's also a mysterious core experience feature in Windows 10. It's called "Fast start up with Hiberboot and InstantGo." InstantGo was previously known as "Connected Standby" in Windows 8, according to a Microsoft blog post. InstantGo is a sleep feature that keeps the streaming feeds coming when the system is idle and allows it to quickly wake, while not putting a great demand on the system's battery life. The "Hiberboot" term, though, seems to be new. It's not clear what Hiberboot is. Maybe we'll find out on July 29, along with many other details, or maybe that's coming in the fall release.

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