Instead of eleven SKUs as seen with Vista and six seen with Windows 7, the next version may only have three.
Documents made available on HP's web site -- which have since been modified -- revealed six Windows 8 "client" SKUs. The documents, discovered by ZDNet, were revision notes for the Alcor Micro Smart Card Reader Driver which listed the SKUs in the "operating system(s)" section. Currently it's unknown if the SKUs were merely document fillers, or the real deal, but it's assumed that HP would likely have the SKU information at this point.
According to the documents, the six versions will be as follows:
Microsoft Windows 8 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 8 64 Edition
Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise 64 Edition
Microsoft Windows 8 Professional 32 Edition
Microsoft Windows 8 Professional 64 Edition
Additional snooping through Microsoft's website unearthed several documents that back up the listed SKUs. For the Windows 8 Beta SKUs, the name of the product will be used, meaning for Windows 8 Enterprise, the string "Windows 8 Enterprise" is used. The same scheme applies for the Windows Server 8 Beta SKUs: for Windows Server 8 Enterprise, the string "Windows Server 8 Enterprise" is used.
As reported earlier, Windows 8 will arrive in four versions: Windows 8 Server x64, Windows 8 Client ARM, Windows 8 Client x64, and Windows 8 Client x86. All Windows 8 systems targeted for client SKUs are required to support a graphics mode via UEFI GOP, Microsoft states. Windows on ARM will not be available for general consumption at retail -- it will only appear pre-installed on ARM-based devices.
Previously with Windows Vista, Microsoft shipped eleven different versions: Starter (32-bit only), Home Basic (32-bit, 64-bit), Home Premium (32-bit, 64-bit), Business (32-bit, 64-bit), Enterprise (32-bit, 64-bit) and Ultimate (32-bit, 64-bit). Windows 7, on the other hand, initially came with six different SKUs including Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. And while there are arguments that Microsoft should adopt a single-SKU approach for Windows releases, a choice of six is still by far a lot easier for the general consumer to figure out than eleven.
"It is early to start the dialogue about a preference for one SKU with Windows," Steven Sinofsky said back in September 2011. "We’re well aware of this feedback and we always need to balance it with the feedback from our business partners who value a different approach. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Interestingly, the feedback about Media Center was predominantly “we will pay extra, just include it” based on the input directly to me. Today Media Center is part of 'premium' SKUs for Windows, which means that is the case today."
Windows 8 x86/x64 isn't slated to launch until later this year. Recent reports indicate that Microsoft is pushing to launch Windows on ARM in the same time-frame, but there are concerns that it may be pushed back and released after the x86/x64 versions.