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Windows 8 versions and Windows RT for tablets explained

Microsoft has streamlined its Windows 8 versions, offering a standard Windows 8 package, a professional version and Windows RT for tablets.

The three main flavours Windows 8 will come in when it launches later this year have been outlined by Microsoft on its blog. The software behemoth has also confirmed it'll be called Windows 8, although I didn't realise there was ever any doubt about that.

Windows has previously come in a whole smorgasbord of varieties, with home versions, school versions and professional versions cluttering up the shelves, but Microsoft has streamlined the offerings into three distinct categories: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT for tablets.

Standard Windows 8 replaces the fragmented versions of Windows 7 Home and Home Premium and will probably be the operating system of choice for the vast majority of you. Windows 8 Pro, as the name suggests, is for the professional user, and adds better encryption, PC management and domain control -- that's all the stuff your IT department will be concerned about.

Windows RT is the version you'll find pre-installed on tablets and devices based on ARM chips. These chips are smaller and use a lot less power, so you wouldn't want the same processor-heavy software from your PC running on your less capable tablet or phone.

The full list of what each version provides is available on the Windows 8 blog, but some of the key features you'll find across all iterations include the new versions of Windows Explorer and Task Manager, the Windows Store for your app needs, the Windows desktop, Internet Explorer 10 and of course that funky Metro-style interface full of colourful live tiles.

Those tiles are going to be particularly important if you're using Windows on a tablet -- trying to prod and poke with a cake-covered finger at little icons and start menu buttons on a small screen is the sort of thing that causes migraines and night-terrors.

To ease touch-phobic minds, MS will also be bundling a version of Office with Windows RT that's apparently "touch-optimised". Exactly what form this will take remains to be seen, but if you've always dreamed of inputting data into an Excel document on your tablet, you might well be in for a treat. Also, please get at least one new hobby.

There's still no word on exactly when Windows 8 will be landing in stores or how much it's going to cost you to upgrade from Windows XP Windows 7. You can download the beta now though and check it out, or just wait patiently until sometime around October when Microsoft finally serves up the polished version. Smash up the comments section with your thoughts, or teleport to our Facebook page via the miracle of the hyperlink.