Microsoft is so happy about Windows 10 that it is releasing seven different versions. The new OS will launch this summer, and the first choice interested consumers will need to make is which "flavor" to buy. That choice shouldn't be made lightly, because Microsoft says Windows 10 is the end of the line for what you might call "Windows Classic." In other words, you'll have to live with your choice for a while.
In the future, Microsoft will distribute Windows upgrades in a way that's similar to how Apple upgrades OS X and Google refreshes Chrome, which is to say a lot more frequently than in the past. Unless Microsoft changes course (and it often does) there won't ever be a "Windows 11" — just frequent upgrades to Windows 10.
Microsoft has described this model as "Windows as a service" to demonstrate that it will be constantly refreshed the way cloud-based services are, even though the OS resides — as it always has — locally on the device.
How much will you pay for each upgrade? The answer is unclear, but at some point Microsoft will likely say something like,"You got lots of free updates to Windows 10, the next one is on you." You didn't think it would be free, did you?
Still, the new system makes sense, and if handled correctly it will be a good thing for consumers. Software changes very rapidly today; the days of waiting three years for a major upgrade and having to download humongous "service packs" are long gone, and it's good to see Microsoft recognize this reality.
Microsoft on Tuesday told the world in a blog post that it will sell seven versions of Windows 10: Home, Mobile, Pro, Enterprise, Education, Mobile Enterprise, and IoT Core. That's a lot of versions, and it's the largest lineup of Windows flavors I can recall.
The company said months ago that it plans to make Windows 10 available as a free upgrade for consumers running Windows 7, Windows 8.x and Windows Phone 8.1 for the 12 months following Windows 10's release. If you buy a new PC, it will include Windows 10, and the price will be baked in.
Here are some details on the Windows 10 versions from Microsoft:
Windows 10 Home is the consumer-focused desktop edition. It will include the Cortana digital assistant; Microsoft's new Edge browser; a Continuum tablet mode for touch-capable devices; Windows Hello (facial, iris, and fingerprint login features); and the ability to stream Xbox One games.
Windows 10 Mobile is the version for Windows Phones and small Intel- and ARM-based tablets. It will have the same universal Windows apps that are included in Windows 10 Home, as well as the new touch-optimized version of Office.
Windows 10 Pro is a desktop edition for PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s. In addition to having all of the Windows 10 Home features, it lets you manage devices and apps, protect sensitive business data, support remote and mobile productivity scenarios, and take advantage of cloud technologies.
Windows 10 IoT Core, as its name suggests, is for small devices that are part of the so-called Internet of Things.