Microsoft introduces the many flavors of Windows 10

Microsoft is reversing course on its mission to reduce the number of SKUs in Windows 10.

Microsoft has announced the different versions of Windows due to ship later this year, and the company is building out the number of products, reversing its trend toward consolidation and fewer SKUs.

Tony Prophet, corporate vice president for Windows and search marketing at Microsoft, recently published a blog post repeating the stat that Windows will ship in 190 countries and 111 languages this summer, then breaking down the different versions. He noted that in addition to running on PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox One, Microsoft HoloLens, and Surface Hub, it will also run all sorts of random things, from  "elevators to ATMs to heart rate monitors to wearables."

Windows 10 Mobile, of course, is for smartphones and small tablets. In addition to the OS, it will support the new touch-optimized version of Office. More important, it will allow some new devices to take advantage of Continuum for phone, so people can use their phone like a PC when connected to a larger screen.

See also: Microsoft clarifies its Windows confusion, sort of

A second mobile OS, Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise, is built on the basic mobile OS but offers productivity, security, and mobile device management (MDM) capabilities and flexible ways for businesses to manage updates. So it sounds like a phone designed for the BYOD market.

Windows 10 Home is the consumer desktop/laptop edition. Its main features are Cortana, the new Microsoft Edge Web browser, Continuum tablet mode for touch-capable devices, Windows Hello face-recognition, iris and fingerprint login, and connectivity to the Xbox Live gaming community.

Windows 10 Pro is also for desktop PCs, tablets, and 2-in-1s, both for home and work. Prophet described it as having many features to meet the diverse needs of small businesses, such as "to effectively and efficiently manage their devices and apps, protect their sensitive business data, support remote and mobile productivity scenarios and take advantage of cloud technologies." He did not get more specific. Windows 10 Pro would come with support for BYOD programs and it would let customers take advantage of the new Windows Update for Business.

As previously stated, Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile, and Windows 10 Pro will all be free upgrades for qualifying Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year after Windows 10 launches.

Windows 10 Enterprise builds on Windows 10 Pro by adding advanced features to help protect against malware designed to steal personal and sensitive company information. It will also have the broadest range of options for operating system deployment and comprehensive device and app management. This version will only be available to volume licensing customers who will have access to the Long Term Servicing Branch as a deployment option.

I haven't discussed LTSB, but it is an interesting option. It guarantees fixes and patches for the duration of mainstream (five years) and extended support (another five years), but it pushes out no new features. This is designed for mission-critical situations, such as hospitals, where they need as little disruption as possible.

Finally, there is Windows 10 Education, a volume licensing-only version designed specifically for schools. Microsoft did not give details beyond that it would be designed to meet the needs of staff, administrators, teachers, and students.

While I am a little concerned at this flood of new SKUs, several of them are only for volume purchases and will not be on store shelves. It's good to see the utterly useless Ultimate edition finally gone for good. Home and Pro should do consumers just fine, and the Enterprise edition sounds like it has BYOD and enterprise security at its core.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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