When Windows 10 ships this summer, buyers will have a host of different versions of the operating system – actually as many as nine, when you take everything into account.
The basic consumer version is Windows 10 Home. For that you get the OS with support for Windows Universal apps, the Edge browser (and Internet Explorer), and Windows Hello facial and fingerprint recognition software. You might also get the voice assistant Cortana, depending on where you live.
Those who want a little more grunt can opt for Windows Pro. That gets you all of the above, along with extra tools for linking into cloud services and managing mobile devices. Pro users also get the option of Windows Update for Business, which allows security updates to be delayed so that Windows Home users can test the patches for bugs.
Windows 10 Enterprise is very similar to Pro, but it's for those buying volume licenses. It'll also carry Device Guard, a system that allows admins to lock out apps that aren't certified and digitally signed, in addition to Windows Update for Business.
The fourth build is Windows 10 Education, available for academic volume licensing customers. It's similar to the Enterprise version but adds features for educators and school administrators. Students with Windows 10 Home and Pro editions on their PCs will also be able to upgrade to this version – although what happens when they graduate is anyone's guess.
Mobile users also get two flavors of Windows 10 to replace the Windows Phone 8 operating system, dubbed Windows 10 Mobile and Mobile Enterprise. These are for smartphones and "small tablets." Redmond refuses to say what this meant, but based on its last WinHEC presentation that means devices with screens under eight inches.
The basic Windows 10 Mobile package supports standard smartphone apps and the Universal Apps that Microsoft has been touting, including Office. It also supports Continuum, the system that allows the phone or fondleslab to be connected to a monitor and keyboard to function like a little PC.
Mobile Enterprise is for volume licensing buyers and includes all of the above features plus better device management code, such as the ability to lock down app selection remotely and "flexible ways for businesses to manage updates."
Microsoft is also doing builds of Windows 10 Enterprise and Mobile Enterprise for the embedded systems market; think ATMs and robotics. There will even be a special Windows 10 IoT Core version for tiny, power-poor, low-cost devices.
"We are making strong progress with Windows 10, and we are on track to make it available this summer," said Windows Marketing chief Tony Prophet in a blog post.
"And because we have built Windows 10 to be delivered as a service," Prophet prophesied, "this milestone is just the beginning of the new generation of Windows. Starting this fall, customers can expect ongoing innovation and security updates for their Windows 10 devices, including more advanced security and management capabilities for businesses." ®