It's expected with each new Windows release that Microsoft announces the different editions of the software for different types of consumers. Microsoft currently offers three versions of Windows 7 in the U.S. - Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate. I would have figured that Microsoft would go with the same scheme for Windows 8, but the company is simplifying their offerings.
Microsoft announced via their Windows blog that there will only be two versions of Windows 8 for x86/x64 machines this time around, plus Windows 8 Enterprise. While Microsoft promises that both versions will offer a "no compromise experience," there will of course be differences. These differences are manifested in Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro.
So what's the difference? Well, regular Windows 8 is much nicer than previous versions of Windows in that regular consumers will finally be able to get their hands on features were previously only available on the Ultimate versions of Windows 7. These include an updated Windows Explorer, better Task Manager and better multi-monitor support.
Windows 8 Pro offers all of that, but is intended more for "tech enthusiasts and business/technical professionals." This means that Windows 8 Pro will offer all the features of regular Windows 8 alongside "features for encryption, virtualization, PC management and domain connectivity."
As an aside, Windows 8 Enterprise is being offered only to "those enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements." It contains all the features of Windows 8 Pro plus features for IT organizations. It's not available to regular consumers so only enterprise customers need worry about this.
On top of all of that, there is another version of Windows 8 coming out, but it's vastly different from other versions of the operating system. Microsoft is calling it Windows RT and it's the OS that was designed for ARM processors (i.e. tablets). Windows RT is only available as a pre-installed version of Windows 8 for tablets and PCs. It's meant to be the low-cost/low-power alternative for touch screen devices and cheap PCs. The nice thing about Windows RT is that it comes pre-loaded with a Microsoft Office, a feature that is not available with the regular editions of Windows 8.
Check out the blog post for a full rundown of all the features that are specific to each version of Windows 8. What I can confirm is that there is less disparity between the different versions of Windows this time around. As was mentioned above, Windows 8 Pro only has the advantage of appealing to tech enthusiasts. I had to buy Windows 7 Ultimate just to get a complete version of Windows so it's nice to see Windows 8 offering all the goods of Ultimate in its base package.
Are you going to get Windows 8? If so, which version are you planning on getting? Let us know in the comments.