A lot of smart people predict the release is going to be an awful, confusing mess.
Microsoft is also releasing its Surface tablet and Windows Phone 8 platform right around the same time.
Pocket Lint went through all the versions, but that approach assumes you're familiar with the different varieties out there.
Here's a different way to think about it: How do you use your computer, and what are you getting it for?
If you do a lot with your computer, including watching TV shows and movies, you should go with Windows 8 Pro. This will include the flashy user interface, previously called "Metro," that you've seen all those sexy screenshots of. It also supports Windows Media Center, Microsoft's TiVo-like system that lets you pause and record live TV. There are some high-end, geeky extras as well, like the ability to boot from a virtual hard drive. This is a good choice for a do-everything laptop that you also use in the living room.
If you're looking for a basic, up-to-date computer primarily for Web, email, and Microsoft Office, you should go with Windows 8. Also boasting the new interface, Windows 8 is almost identical to Windows 8 Pro except that it doesn't support Windows Media Center and can't boot from a virtual hard drive. Pick this for a desktop machine in a multi-computer household.
If you like the simplicity of tablets, you should go with Windows RT. The difference between RT and other versions is analogous to the difference between the operating system on Apple's iPads, iOS, and the operating system powering its laptops, OS X. RT won't run older Windows programs. Instead, it runs apps downloaded via the Windows Store. Machines that run RT can't run Windows 8, so make up your mind beforehand.
If your company is buying your laptop, you'll probably end up with Windows 8 Enterprise. It boasts Remote Desktop capacities, letting you see and control other computers (and letting them control yours in turn) for giving demonstrations or remotely troubleshooting a problem. Businesses needing to encrypt data will want to take advantage of AppLocker, the included encryption tool. But this is only available to businesses which sign big, multi-computer deals with Microsoft, not consumers.
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- Windows Media Center
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