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The Windows 8 FAQ

Tim Greene | Oct. 24, 2012
Windows 8 launches Friday, and even if you haven't been paying attention it's still not too late to catch up on the essentials of what's new and significant about the operating system.

Windows 8 is the consumer version for home use. Windows 8 Pro is aimed at more technically savvy personal users and businesses. Windows 8 Enterprise is designed for deployment in larger businesses and calls for a Software Assurance package. Windows RT is a version that runs on ARM processors.

Windows RT has some other differences. It is sold only in a package with hardware and runs only modern applications from the Windows Store. The exception is a special version of certain Office applications that come with the platform -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

What's Windows 8 cost?

It depends. If you buy a Windows 7 computer before Jan. 31, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99. Anybody with any supported version of Windows can upgrade for $40. Best Buy has a sale on Windows 8 Pro for $69.99, marked down from $199. Windows 8 Enterprise pricing is the cost of Windows 8 Pro plus a Software Assurance contract that can run $30 to $55 per year depending on how many machines it's being bought for.

Windows RT comes with hardware so the price varies. Microsoft's Surface RT devices start at $499.

What's Surface?

Surface is the name given to a hybrid laptop/tablet that Microsoft itself is making [First Look: Surface RT tablet]. It comes in two major versions. One that runs Windows RT called Surface RT that comes installed on an ARM-based machine, and it supports only modern applications. The other runs the full Windows 8 on x86 machines that support both modern and traditional Windows applications.

Why is that significant?

Microsoft traditionally lets hardware OEMs sell hardware packaged with its software, and Surface puts them in competition with its partners.

Why would they do that?

It may be the company wants to show off Windows 8 to best advantage and wants to make sure there is at least one platform that optimizes the experience.

What's a hybrid laptop/tablet?

In the case of Surface, it's a touchscreen tablet running Windows 8 that can be fitted with an optional cover that doubles as a keyboard just 3 millimeters thick.

When is Windows 8 available?

Oct. 26.


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