Microsoft Windows 8 is the highly anticipated latest addition to the Windows family. Expected to launch either late this year or early 2013, Windows 8 brings with it the most substantial user experience change since Windows 95.
The Start menu, perhaps the most well-known and universally recognizable feature of Windows, has been replaced with an entirely new interface designed with touch screens in mind, and expected to extend the desktop experience to tablet computers and even mobile phones.
Not to be overlooked is another big change being introduced with the latest OS. Three primary versions of Windows 8 are expected, including: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT. Windows RT is designed to work with devices powered by the ARM architecture. Though it is a different release than the one expected for most desktops, it does carry over quite a few features from both the primary and professional versions of the OS.
Simply put, Windows 8 is the name of Microsoft’s new x86/64 editions of Windows and Windows RT is the name given to the edition designed to work on ARM architecture. Windows RT has previously been referred to as WOA (Windows on ARM). In case you’re wondering, the RT stands for RunTime, a native API created by Microsoft to enable developers to make apps for the Metro interface.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how Windows 8 compares to Windows RT, and where the more mobile-friendly option may actually have an advantage.
Always a big concern for current Windows users wishing to keep their current systems and still enjoy the latest and greatest edition of Windows, upgrades enable the user to keep their system current without paying full price for a retail version of the OS.
This is a big deal, and one that certainly splits the desktop version of the OS from Windows RT. Windows RT cannot be upgraded from any previous version of Windows — even the Starter version of Windows 7.
Windows RT can’t exist as an upgrade because legacy software can’t run on it. Any upgrade you perform would leave you in pretty much the same state as if you had done a fresh install in the first place.
Edge: Windows 8
Windows RT comes complete with a copy of Microsoft Office Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro do not.
In order to use these applications on Windows 8, you’ll need to either purchase the applications separately or utilize Office Web Apps.
Of course, that’s assuming you haven’t abandoned Microsoft Office by this point anyway in favor of free alternatives including LibreOffice and Google Docs.
Still, having office software built and baked right in to the OS is a great thing, especially in a market that hasn’t quite caught up with the requirements of the Metro interface. Remember, legacy software doesn’t run on Windows RT, so at the very least this will allow you to remain productive while your current favorite productivity programs catch up.
Edge: Windows RT
Windows 8 doesn’t come with built-in encryption capabilities. Windows 8 Pro does by way of BitLocker and BitLocker To Go.
Windows RT, on the other hand, offers device-level encryption which does essentially the same thing as BitLocker, protecting your data should the hard drive be accessed by someone who doesn’t need to have access.
Keep in mind, however, that the amount of data you would expect to store on an ARM device may be considerably reduced in comparison to a PC running Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. While BitLocker is an excellent feature to have, there are several options out there (TrueCrypt as an example) that can make encryption available without the extra investment or sacrifice of hardware performance.
That said, the edge goes to Windows RT for having encryption included in the OS itself.
Edge: Windows RT
Windows depends greatly on support for software designed on previous versions of the OS in order to provide benefits to users that may still rely on older programs. Windows 7 even has a compatibility mode allowing you to run programs as if they were installed on Windows XP. This makes Windows useful, and it’s a feature you won’t find on Windows RT.
Windows RT is built to support Metro apps exclusively, and legacy software built on the Windows desktop is not supported. That means you’ll lose most of your current software until a version of each program based in Metro or in the cloud is developed.
The edge goes to Windows 8 for giving users the ability to keep running today’s programs tomorrow.
Edge: Windows 8
Storage and Media
One of the more interesting features to be introduced with Windows 8 is Storage Spaces. This feature pools multiple physical disks together to form a larger virtual disk with extended capacity and redundancy so your files remain safe.
It’s really like a software RAID, with a few minor tweaks. At first glance, it acts like a Drobo without your having to actually buy a Drobo. Instead, you can link internal disks with external drives connected by way of FireWire, USB, and eSATA to create one massive storage pool that both protects and stores your data.
Sadly, this feature is not available on Windows RT.
Another consideration for some users is that you’ll lose any benefits of a desktop Windows Media Player.
Edge: Windows 8
If there is one absolute benefit of Windows over OS X, it’s flexibility. You can run Windows on practically anything out there. Whether you buy a PC off the shelf or build it on your own, Windows will usually run on it.
Windows 8 introduces a new level of flexibility to the Windows market. Like Linux, the same core Windows experience can exist on everything from a PC to a smartphone. That’s an incredible step, and one that Microsoft is betting will make the new OS a success.
Windows RT is Windows for these devices. It cuts out the legacy desktop and clutter, leaving a smooth and responsive Metro experience on whatever it is you’re running it on. Windows RT includes support for multiple monitors and other advanced configurations, as does Windows 8.
Windows 8 gives you the ability to run more programs on more desktop PCs. Ultrabooks, desktops, laptops, and some tablets are expected to work just fine with Windows 8. Windows RT is designed to work with everything else.
It’s difficult to assign an edge here as these two products are complementary. What one can’t handle, the other can with very little overlapping. Windows 8 offers more flexibility of software and advanced hardware while Windows RT offers added mobile functionality.
Photo Courtesy of: Microsoft