Based on recently leaked documentation originating from HP.com, it appears that Microsoft may be planning to streamline its upcoming Windows 8 SKU lineup with fewer versions offered to consumers, professionals and enterprises. While this may seem like bad news on the surface, we believe the new strategy, if true, would ultimately aid Microsoft's efforts to reduce user confusion, reduce product fragmentation and facilitate its transition into supporting both ARM and x86 editions of the operating system.
Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows Divison at Microsoft, said in a statement back in September 2011 that "the different editions or SKUs are not developed or announced until late in the development process (closer to market availability)." Nevertheless, a recent analysis of the leaked HP documentation from the folks at ZDNet unveils revision notes for an Alcor Micro Smart Card Reader Driver, which, next to a section titled “operating system(s),” lists the following Windows 8 versions:
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
Now, it is very possible that these six SKUs may simply be placeholders for more SKUs to come in the final Windows 8 Public Beta release. One fact is certain, however, and that is Microsoft's intention to release 32-bit and 64-bit client versions, a 64-bit server version and the highly-anticipated ARM version as listed in this Windows 8 Hardware Certification Requirements document.
More details can be found here.