Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and many others: a complete and updated overview of their releases and related aspects

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The last couple of days were quite busy: several Windows 8 SKUs, Windows Server 2012 SKUs and other products (like Visual Studio 2012 SKUs) have been released, while many others have been RTM’d (like Windows RT), gotten (new) public test releases (like Windows Server 2012 Essentials) and/or are expected to be released soon (like Windows Phone 8 SDK). I’ve already written 2 articles about it:

Now that we are a few more days full of news/releases/… further, things have become more clear and I’ve found a little bit more time, I thought it was time to write another article which is more complete and updated. So with the start of this new article my previous blog posts are already outdated and not-so-complete anymore. J

This article is meant to describe the current state of several new Microsoft products, with a big focus on Windows and Windows related stuff. I would like to give you (and myself J) an overview of their releases (in the meaning of “launches”), RTMs and test releases (in the meaning of “test builds”) and it’s my intention to describe many aspects related to them: the actual SKUs, the install packages, the licenses (and their license agreements), the keys, the activations, the down- and upgrades, where and how to get them, etc. So, in a nutshell, if you want to know “everything” of the latest of the latest of release related things about Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows Phone 8, Windows Embedded 8, Visual Studio 2012, related kits (like SDKs) and tools, etc., you should definitely read this post. The biggest topic is, of course, Windows 8, because it targets a larger audience and this is also the product with the most release related news available to share with you. Then, on the 2nd place, we have Windows Server 2012. But as I’ve just told you, other products will be mentioned as well of course. Just read on and get yourself updated in the world of Microsoft! J

Note: it’s rumored the word “Metro” isn’t used anymore by Microsoft, because of a naming issue with the German retailer company/partner “Metro AG”. There is no official news about this topic (yet) and new names are also rumored, with “Modern UI” being the most heard. In this blog post I’m still going to use the word Metro, because it’s all just still a rumor (although probably one that’s true…).

Windows 8

The latest version of the Windows operating system is 8. In the broadest sense the Windows (8) family contains the following sub-families (that’s how I personally call this):

  • Windows (8): the “normal” client OS everyone knows, meant for desktops, laptops (including ultrathin and -light “Ultrabook”-like laptops), tablets (including slates), netbooks, hybrids (“Ultrabook”-tablet hybrids), etc. This hardware may or may not support touch.
  • Windows Server (2012): meant for the real server side
  • Windows Phone (8): meant for feature phones/smartphones (including phablets)
  • Windows Embedded (8): meant for embedded scenarios

Windows 8

In this “chapter” I would like to deal with the Windows 8 sub-family (so not Windows 8 in the broadest sense).

Which flavors does Windows 8 have? Editions.

This “Windows client OS” is/will be available in the following editions:

  • [a limited edition we don’t know the name of yet]: I guess a few sub-editions (that’s how I call it) falling under this category will see the daylight. For example, “Windows 8 for China” is rumored to be one of those “sub-editions”. Let’s say these are some kind of Starter editions known from previous Windows versions. Language support should be limited here. None of them has been released yet.
  • Windows 8: yup, just this name, so no Home, Basic, Home Basic, Home Premium or whatever. It can be considered as the “base” edition, which is in the first place intended for and should suffice for the typical mass consumer user (with “consumer” in the sense of someone who doesn’t do heavy or techy work as is typically the case for home usage), although that’s not by definition of course.
  • Windows 8 Pro: the same, but with some extras. Typically useful for IT professionals, developers, hobbyists, enthusiasts, fans, die-hards, MS lovers (they do exist you know ;-)), people who want the “full” thing, people who want to be sure they’ll never miss anything, some business people or other people who would use it for professional usage, enterprises, etc.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise: this is actually the most complete and full blown Windows 8, but for production environments it’s only available for Volume Licensing/Software Assurance (SA) customers. So in practice Windows 8 Pro is the highest edition for “normal” users in production, while that’s Enterprise for enterprises, very serious developers or totally crazy extremists J. The Enterprise edition doesn’t support the Media Center add-on, so if you want Media Center (for Microsoft’s DVD playback for example), don’t use this edition. On the other hand it offers some extras which are typically enterprise minded (Windows To Go (WTG) for example).
  • Windows RT: lets’ say this is like the “Windows 8” edition, but for ARM architectures. This edition has only a limited desktop and is especially focused on the Metro environment of Windows. The name of the edition refers to the API set/framework Metro is using (Windows Runtime or WinRT). It will never be available separately, because it’s intended to be part of managed consumer-level devices, typically targeted for mass users who need a very mobile device for simple usage (although in some scenarios they could be useful for some enterprises or businesses too).

Which flavors does Windows 8 have? Sub-editions.

(Some) editions also have sub-editions (well, that’s how I call it). There is the “normal” “base” sub-edition and there are some “special” sub-editions too:

  • N: this is just the same, except for the exclusion of media playback (i.e. Windows Media Player (WMP)) (“N” = “No”). The availability of this sub-edition is enforced by the European Union (EU).
  • K: this is just the same, except for the fact 2 Korean shortcuts are added to the desktop (“K”= “Korea”). The availability of this sub-edition is enforced by South-Korea.
  • KN: this is just the same, except for the exclusion of media playback (i.e. Windows Media Player (WMP)) and the fact 2 Korean shortcuts are added to the desktop. The availability of this sub-edition is enforced by South-Korea.

Which flavors does Windows 8 have? Architectures.

All of the editions are meant for the x86 architecture (32 bit (x86) or 64 bit (x64)) and thus exist in a 32 bit and 64 bit build, except for Windows RT, which is only built for the ARM architecture (officially the precise ARM architectures supported for now are those from Texas Instruments (TI), Qualcomm and NVIDIA).

Which flavors does Windows 8 have? Languages.

I don’t know for sure for the first edition, but all other editions allow multiple languages to be used and yes, I mean for free J. Of course there are still language specific builds, but those determine the setup language, the language of some OS internals and the default user display language. You can make Windows 8 multilanguage by downloading and installing the desired language packs.

Windows 8 will be available in 109 different languages (up from 95 in Windows 7).

Which flavors does Windows 8 have? Checked or not?

For some types of Windows there is also a special variant, called a checked build. Such a checked build is designated by the name “Debug/Checked Build”. Such a build is used for debugging; typically only a very small set of developers and hardware builders make use of this build.

Which flavors does Windows 8 have? License/key types.

Last, but not least, builds also differ in the type of license key(s) they accept. Every license key type corresponds to a separate license (agreement) (End User License Agreement (EULA)). The key type (and thus EULA) is defined by

  • how many times the key can be used. There are different categories:
    • Product Key (PK): the key can be used for only 1 instance and should typically be entered in a “normal” way
    • Volume License Key (VLK): the key can be used for more than 1 instance. Two kinds exist:
      • Multiple Activation Key (MAK): and is entered in a “normal” way
      • Key Management Service (KMS): but is not entered in a “normal” way. This is possible when the system is part of a domain and gets the key automatically and transparently from a piece of server software (Key Management Service (KMS)), making the server containing the KMS service the “KMS host” .

    If a VLK is accepted, MAK as well as KMS are supported, so there are no different builds for MAK or KMS.

  • which system(s) you can use the product/key on and under which conditions. These are the possible categories:
    • Retail: a normal license bought separately and allowed to run on any piece of hardware without real limitations, but it may only be used by 1 person at a time for a certain system. Retail is typically something you buy at a local PC shop, supermarket, shopping mall,… although specialized sellers exist too (for example, for selling Retail Volume Licensing).
    • OEM: related to a computer system you have bought from an OEM. The OS must run on that hardware, but without real limitations. The
      OEM is the entity that has actually bought the license in the first place from Microsoft.
    • Personal Use License for System Builder: related to a computer system you have bought from a system builder smaller than an OEM (for example, your PC shop around the corner could have built this system for you); starting from Windows 8 you are allowed to use this license too, if you build your own system or when you install it on a virtual machine (VM) or a 2nd partition. There are no real limitations. This is very great news for anyone building its own system, as this build is of course cheaper than the retail one.
    • MSDN/TechNet PK: related to an MSDN/TechNet Subscription and allowed to run on any piece of hardware, but limitations exist
    • Evaluation: allowed to run on any piece of hardware, but limitations exist

Not every combination of both categories exist. For Windows 8 we have the following combinations as far as known by now (if the License column stays empty, that means I don’t know the name of the license (yet)):

Type 2 Type 1 License
Retail PK MICROSOFT SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT RETAIL UPGRADE (“Upgrade”)
Retail VLK
OEM PK MICROSOFT SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT WITH COMPUTER MANUFACTURER OR SOFTWARE INSTALLER (“OEM”)
Personal Use License for System Builder PK MICROSOFT SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT
MSDN PK
MSDN VLK
TechNet PK
TechNet VLK
Evaluation

*There could be another “type 2” of key, i.e. Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) (PK and VLK). As I don’t have access to MPN I don’t dare to give a lot of information about it. So I’m ignoring this in this blog post quite a lot.

Typically a build accepts only 1 license key type, but there is an exception: MSDN and TechNet keys share the same build. On the other hand a license key type can typically be used by several builds. Normally keys are different for different editions, “sub-editions” and license types, but not for different architectures, languages or whether a build is checked or not.

As you probably know you need to activate your Windows 8 instance. If you’re using a PK, this is called Product Activation (PA). When using a VLK, it’s called Volume Activation (VA). Typically activation occurs at Microsoft’s activation and validation services, but if you’re using a KMS key it actually happens at the KMS host (so on-premise).

Note: if your KMS host runs Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 (WS08R2) then you need to install a hotfix first before it can provide a key to Windows 8 & Windows Server 2012 systems. The update is related to Microsoft Knowledge Base (KB) article 2691586 (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2691586), which is titled “An update is available for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 KMS hosts to support Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012”.  You need to enter your KMS host key (CLVLK; not the GVLK!) for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 afterwards too of course.

Evaluation builds are a special case and have their own key built-in. This means you don’t have to enter a key in a Windows 8 evaluation. You still need to activate within 10 days though (so there is a 10 day grace period) and after activation you have the right to use the system for 90 days. You can watch the watermark in the lower right corner to check how many days you have left. If the 90 day usage has expired or the grace period is over and you haven’t activated yet, you get a black desktop background, a persistent notification telling you your system is not-genuine (not valid) and the system shuts down every hour. You can’t upgrade, so you have to install another OS afterwards. Note that the amount of evaluations that can be downloaded are limited by Microsoft (I don’t have a clue what’s the number behind this limit). Downloading evaluations is only possible till the 31st of December 2013 and before the threshold is reached, so it’s best not to wait too long before you download the bits if you want them. Also, the last day you can activate is the 15th of August 2013 (or the day before?) (it’s weird this date is sooner than the download date, isn’t it?). Just keep that in mind. Perhaps (I say “perhaps”!) a new series of evaluation builds will be made available later, but I wouldn’t count on this as long as it’s not official. Evaluations are available to everyone, but before you are able to download you need to register (which means you need to answer a few questions) after logging in with a Microsoft account (the successor of the Windows Live ID). You will receive 3 evaluation related mails from Microsoft during your evaluation and support isn’t offered. Evaluation builds may be used for whatever you want (AFAIK), although it’s Microsoft’s intention to particularly target developers, IT Professionals (IT Pros, Microsoft’s name for IT infrastructure/exploitation people) who want to test the OS or their software and hardware on the OS and IT decision makers and they even recommend not to use the evaluation if you don’t fall in one of those categories, which is understandable because it is the Enterprise edition we’re dealing with here (evaluations are limited to this edition!). If you want more information, please browse to the Windows 8 Enterprise Evaluation FAQ on TechNet (this FAQ doesn’t seem to exist on MSDN!): http://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/evalcenter/jj552442.

MSDN and TechNet Subscribers can get their own keys and builds. Technically it’s all the same, but still there is a difference in license. MSDN Subscribers may only use the MSDN keys and builds for pure development purposes and not for production purposes (not even at home). TechNet Subscribers on the other hand are only allowed to evaluate the software. Also, MSDN Subscribers have the right to use their systems beyond the expiration of their subscription, while this is not the case for TechNet Subscribers, even though this is not technically enforced (so in practice the system keeps working, although strictly spoken it’s not allowed).

For Product Keys MSDN Subscribers with a “lower” subscription get 3 keys for every set of SKUs that can use the same keys, just as TechNet Subscribers with a “higher” subscription (TechNet Professional subscriptions), while those with a “higher” MSDN Subscription get 5 keys and those with a “lower” TechNet Subscription (TechNet Standard subscriptions) 2 keys. For VLK keys this is 1 key of course. If you have multiple subscriptions, all this is cumulative. Note that the software and keys you can achieve depend on the specific MSDN and/or TechNet Subscription you have: the higher your subscription, the likelier you’re gonna get access to more software. For example, not every MSDN Subscriber gets access to MSDN builds with a VLK.

For instance, the key for Windows 8 Pro x86 is the same as for Windows 8 Pro x64, so you don’t get 3 or 5 keys for each. But Windows 8 x86/x64 (the “base” edition, one edition lower than Pro) uses another key, so you get a different set of 3 or 5 keys for this one.

Some people have an “explicit” MSDN/TechNet Subscription, others an “implicit”. For example, you can explicitly buy some MSDN Subscriptions, but it could also be you buy or get something else that includes an MSDN/TechNet Subscription. An example of this is the BizSpark program, which is meant for startup businesses. If you make use of such a program you also get an MSDN Subscription (like “BizSpark” or “BizSpark Admin”). Some MSDN subscription types are only meant for members of special programs (like the BizSpark program).

MSDN and TechNet VLK keys are always MAK keys. Volume Licensing/Software Assurance customers have the choice between MAK and KMS keys though.

A PK SKU requires a key to be entered at installation time. This isn’t required for VLK SKUs.

When you get a Windows license through a physical retail package or a computer system from an OEM, the package or computer system has a label to indicate the fact a valid Windows license is attached to it. This label is called a Certificate of Authenticity (CoA) and acts as the proof of license. There is no CoA of course when you get the bits through a download.

Side note: if you buy a computer system from an OEM, the OS is pre-installed and the OEM has already “provided” the OS with an OEM key and has pre-activated your Windows instance. The mechanism used for this is called System Locked Pre-installation (SLP). Windows Server 2012 uses SLP 2.2, while Windows 8 uses SLP 3.0.

Which flavors does Windows 8 have? SKUs.

For almost every existing combination of several aspects a build exists. For example, there is a build with the following aspects:

  • Version: 8
  • Edition: Enterprise
  • Sub-edition: N
  • Architecture: 32 bit (x86)
  • Language: Dutch
  • License/key type: VLK Retail
  • Checked?: no

Every unique piece is called a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU).

Which releases have been made available?

During Windows 8 development many, many builds were created. These builds were used for pure development purposes, internal testing or distribution to special selected partners (the ones Microsoft cooperate with to build the base of the whole ecosystem, i.e. companies that help to develop special OS components, important hardware manufacturers, etc.). Some of those builds though (at least 8 AFAIK) marked a special milestone and were distributed to a wider audience. Five of those 8 were still private, meaning they weren’t available publicly, but on the other hand they weren’t only limited to the very small group of VIP partners. Three of those 8 builds were public:

  • Developer Preview (DP): the base of Windows 8 was ready, but it was still quite bare
  • Consumer Preview (CP): more flesh was added; this can be compared to what’s typically a beta
  • Release Preview (RP): this one comes close to the final build and you can see what it will all be like; it’s like a Release Candidate (RC)

The RP was the latest special build AFAIK (I’m not aware of any private build made and distributed later). Microsoft has finished Windows 8 development on the 1st of August 2012; it was already announced this would happen in the first week of August. This final build (version 6.2 build 9200) is the one that people will buy, that will be distributed to online providers and retail shops, that will be made available to Volume Licensing customers and MSDN and TechNet subscribers, etc. But it’s also the one that will be delivered to hardware manufacturers, like OEMs, which is why a final build is also called a Release-to-Manufacturing (RTM). So yes, in short: Windows 8 has been RTM’d! Development has finished, the future has been determined! J

Note: from a low-level technical point of view, you can see Windows 8 belongs to the same “series” as Windows Vista (version 6.0) and Windows 7 (6.1). Of course Windows 8 has a lot of new stuff and it marks the beginning of a new generation of computing, but at a low technical level the real Windows core isn’t that different. That means the big changes are mostly residing on higher levels.

Which are the release dates?

As said before, Windows 8 was RTM’d on the 1st of August 2012. Although not officially specified, this was probably the case for every SKU. There was especially a lot of doubt about Windows RT in particular, but a later blog post from Microsoft mentioned the release of Windows RT and based on that it seems quite logical to me Windows RT was also RTM’d that same day. So again, it’s not 100% sure when which edition was RTM’d, but I think they all reached that state on the very same day (the 1st of August 2012). Anyway, it’s not because the product has been RTM’d, that it has also been released. Yes, it was distributed to hardware builders, but those are special VIP companies/partners building hardware for that ecosystem; this can’t be called a release (in the sense of “launch”). Luckily for us a few release dates were announced too. Some special customers or people would be able to get their hands on the bits before the mass public can. Here is an overview of announced and occurred releases and release dates:

  • 15th of August 2012: announced for MSDN and TechNet Subscribers. Some MSDN and TechNet Subscribers indeed got access to some SKUs (also depending on the level of the subscription). Evaluations were also released for everyone (after registration).
  • 16th of August 2012: announced for Volume Licensing/Software Assurance (SA) customers and some Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) customers. Some other program members also got access through an implicit MSDN Subscription (like BizSpark customers (http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark)). This day was the first day Windows 8 was released with a license that allows it to be used for production environments which aren’t solely meant for development…
  • 20th of August 2012: announced for Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS) customers (consultants and the like), part of Microsoft Partner Network (MPN). One of the 2 MAPS subscriptions, Microsoft Action Pack Solution Provider (meant for the IT Pro side; the other subscription is meant for developers), also contains a TechNet subscription (TechNet for Action Pack).
  • 22nd of August 2012: DreamSpark Premium (DSP) members got access to some releases thanks to their implicit MSDN Subscription. This was not announced AFAIK. DreamSpark is a program that provides students with software (http://www.dreamspark.com).
  • UPDATE: 30th of August 2012: Windows Intune customers got access to Windows 8, which was a little bit sooner than expected.
  • 1st of September 2012: announced for Volume Licensing without Software Assurance (SA) customers through retail resellers
  • 26th of October 2012: announced for everyone. This is the so-called General Availability (GA). Starting from this day you can buy the Retail PK and Personal Use License PK builds or computers systems with Windows 8 from OEMs. Those computer systems can be anything from heavy desktops to small slates, including the Surface tablets from Microsoft. This is also the start of Windows RT, which will be only distributed as part of a bundle with a computer system based on ARM.

Where can you get the bits?

Packages and keys can be obtained here:

So, which SKUs exist and are available for now?

So, which SKUs and install packages are actually available till now, where and for who? Now this is a very large and complex topic. I need a few tables to describe this:

Edition Sub-edition Key type (PK/VLK) Architecture Checked? Language
1 [base] [base] [normal] x86 [normal] EnglishEnglish-UK
2 [base] [base] [normal] x86 Debug/Checked Build English
3 [base] [base] [normal] x64 [normal] EnglishEnglish-UK
4 [base] [base] [normal] x64 Debug/Checked Build English
5 [base] N [normal] x86 [normal] EnglishEnglish-UK
6 [base] N [normal] x86 Debug/Checked Build English
7 [base] N [normal] x64 [normal] EnglishEnglish-UK
8 [base] N [normal] x64 Debug/Checked Build English
9 Pro [base] [normal] x86 [normal] EnglishEnglish-UK
10 Pro [base] [normal] x86 Debug/Checked Build English
11 Pro [base] [normal] x64 [normal] EnglishEnglish-UK
12 Pro [base] [normal] x64 Debug/Checked Build English
13 Pro N [normal] x86 [normal] EnglishEnglish-UK
14 Pro N [normal] x86 Debug/Checked Build English
15 Pro N [normal] x64 [normal] EnglishEnglish-UK
16 Pro N [normal] x64 Debug/Checked Build English
17 Pro [base] VL x86 [normal] 36
18 Pro [base] VL x64 [normal] 36
19 Pro N VL x86 [normal] 24
20 Pro N VL x64 [normal] 24
21 Pro K VL x86 [normal] Korean
22 Pro K VL x64 [normal] Korean
23 Pro KN VL x86 [normal] Korean
24 Pro KN VL x64 [normal] Korean
25 Enterprise [base] [normal] x86 [normal] 36
26 Enterprise [base] [normal] x86 Debug/Checked Build English
27 Enterprise [base] [normal] x64 [normal] 36
28 Enterprise [base] [normal] x64 Debug/Checked Build English
29 Enterprise N [normal] x86 [normal] 24
30 Enterprise N [normal] x86 Debug/Checked Build English
31 Enterprise N [normal] x64 [normal] 24
32 Enterprise N [normal] x64 Debug/Checked Build English
33 Enterprise K [normal] x86 [normal] Korean
34 Enterprise K [normal] x64 [normal] Korean
35 Enterprise KN [normal] x86 [normal] Korean
36 Enterprise KN [normal] x64 [normal] Korean
37 Enterprise [base] [normal] x86 [normal] 10
38 Enterprise [base] [normal] x64 [normal] 10

If you want the full name for an SKU, add the different pieces from the table to each other and ignore all the values with square brackets. For example, “Windows 8 Enterprise N x86 English”. For the key type, “[normal]” refers to a PK build and “VL” to a VLK build (“VL” stands for “Volume License” or “Volume Licensing”).

Concerning evaluations we can say those exist only for the Enterprise edition in a normal form (no N, K or KN and no Debug/Checked Build). The only difference between the 2 evaluations is the architecture: x86 and x64.

Actually there is a different SKU for every language, although I’ve just put the total amount of languages in the table when more than 2 languages are supported. Only American English (“English”) and British English (“English-United Kingdom”) are supported right now for MSDN and TechNet subscribers, although the evaluation editions are already available in more languages (10 in total, being Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese (Brazil), and Spanish; the MSDN Evaluation Center (but not the TechNet Evaluation Center!) also notes English (UK), but I can’t seem to select that one, so I keep it with 10 languages). Volume Licensing/ Software Assurance (SA) customers can download the bits in more languages than MSDN/TechNet subscribers: 36 languages, being Arabic, Brazilian (this is the same as “Portuguese (Brazil)”), Bulgarian, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Traditional Hong Kong (= Chinese-Hong Kong SAR), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (on MSDN/TechNet this is also called “English”), English International (i.e. British English, on MSDN/TechNet this is called “English-United Kingdom”), Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian Latin, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian. For K/KN versions though only Korean is supported (not that weird, isn’t it?). N versions are available in 24 languages, being Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, English International, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish. Debug/Checked Builds are only available in English (“English”).

Side note: “English” is American English, as Microsoft is an American company and uses American English as the “base English”. For some SKUs a more specific English variant is made, i.e. UK English, sometimes called “English International”. The latter should not be interpreted as “the international, base English”, but as “an English form that’s meant for some non-American (and thus ‘international’) users, while American English is still considered the ‘base English’ and hence is just called ‘English’”.

There is also a different SKU for almost every license type, but in the above table I’ve only made a difference between PK (“[normal]”) and VLK (“VL”), because that influences the name of the build. More details about the different SKUs and their license types follow.

So, which more precise SKUs exist and are available for now? And where to get them?

Ok, let’s see now which SKUs accept which key (and thus are related to which license agreement), in what package types they exist, how big they are, how they are named and who can get them.

All the packages till now are “DVD”. This is the same as the one that would be available on DVD, with other words it’s the full set of bits for that SKU. The precise way it’s packaged can differ though. Till now it’s not available on a physical DVD yet, but it’s downloadable through the ISO format (which is just an image of an actual DVD). Something else than DVD could have been a “Web Installer”, that downloads the full package in a later phase.

License/key set Who? Size (MB) MSDN/TechNet Subscription file name
1 MSDN PK 1TechNet PK 1 MSDN: allTechNet: all 25112443 en_windows_8_x86_dvd_915417.iso
en-gb_windows_8_x86_dvd_915479.iso
2 MSDN PK 1TechNet PK 1 MSDN: almost all 2579 en_windows_8_debug_checked_build_x86_dvd_917560.iso
3 MSDN PK 1TechNet PK 1 MSDN: allTechNet: all 34163348 en_windows_8_x64_dvd_915440.iso
en-gb_windows_8_x64_dvd_915412.iso
4 MSDN PK 1TechNet PK 1 MSDN: almost all 3541 en_windows_8_debug_checked_build_x64_dvd_917558.iso
5 MSDN PK 2TechNet PK 2 MSDN: allTechNet: all 23872320 en_windows_8_n_x86_dvd_916097.iso
en-gb_windows_8_n_x86_dvd_916086.iso
6 MSDN PK 2TechNet PK 2 MSDN: almost all 2450 en_windows_8_n_debug_checked_build_x86_dvd_917564.iso
7 MSDN PK 2TechNet PK 2 MSDN: allTechNet: all 32503183 en_windows_8_n_x64_dvd_916091.iso
en-gb_windows_8_n_x64_dvd_915799.iso
8 MSDN PK 2TechNet PK 2 MSDN: almost all 3369 en_windows_8_n_debug_checked_build_x64_dvd_917562.iso
9 MSDN PK 3TechNet PK 3 MSDN: allTechNet: allVLSA 25112443 en_windows_8_x86_dvd_915417.iso
en-gb_windows_8_x86_dvd_915479.iso
10 MSDN PK 1TechNet PK 1 MSDN: almost all 2579 en_windows_8_debug_checked_build_x86_dvd_917560.iso
11 MSDN PK 3TechNet PK 3 MSDN: allTechNet: allVLSA 34163348 en_windows_8_x64_dvd_915440.iso
en-gb_windows_8_x64_dvd_915412.iso
12 MSDN PK 1TechNet PK 1 MSDN: almost all 3541 en_windows_8_debug_checked_build_x64_dvd_917558.iso
13 MSDN PK 4TechNet PK 4 MSDN: allTechNet: all 23872320 en_windows_8_n_x86_dvd_916097.iso
en-gb_windows_8_n_x86_dvd_916086.iso
14 MSDN PK 2TechNet PK 2 MSDN: almost all 2450 en_windows_8_n_debug_checked_build_x86_dvd_917564.iso
15 MSDN PK 4TechNet PK 4 MSDN: allTechNet: all 32503183 en_windows_8_n_x64_dvd_916091.iso
en-gb_windows_8_n_x64_dvd_915799.iso
16 MSDN PK 2TechNet PK 2 MSDN: almost all 3369 en_windows_8_n_debug_checked_build_x64_dvd_917562.iso
17 MSDN VLKTechNet VLKRetail VLK MSDN: limitedTechNet: limitedVLSA 24312362 en_windows_8_pro_vl_x86_dvd_917830.iso
en-gb_windows_8_pro_vl_x86_dvd_917831.iso
18 MSDN VLKTechNet VLKRetail VLK MSDN: limitedTechNet: limitedVLSA 33273258 en_windows_8_pro_vl_x64_dvd_917699.iso
en-gb_windows_8_pro_vl_x64_dvd_917700.iso
19 MSDN VLKTechNet VLKRetail VLK MSDN: limitedTechNet: limitedVLSA 23602292 en_windows_8_pro_n_vl_x86_dvd_918877.iso
en-gb_windows_8_pro_n_vl_x86_dvd_918878.iso
20 MSDN VLKTechNet VLKRetail VLK MSDN: limitedTechNet: limitedVLSA 32173148 en_windows_8_pro_n_vl_x64_dvd_918677.iso
en-gb_windows_8_pro_n_vl_x64_dvd_918679.iso
21 Retail VLK VLSA
22 Retail VLK VLSA
23 Retail VLK VLSA
24 Retail VLK VLSA
25 MSDN VLKTechNet VLKRetail VLK MSDN: mediumTechNet: mediumVLSA 24332365 en_windows_8_enterprise_x86_dvd_917587.iso
en-gb_windows_8_enterprise_x86_dvd_917588.iso
26 MSDN VLK MSDN: almost medium 2501 en_windows_8_enterprise_debug_checked_build_x86_dvd_917529.iso
27 MSDN VLKTechNet VLKRetail VLK MSDN: mediumTechNet: mediumVLSA 33293261 en_windows_8_enterprise_x64_dvd_917522.iso
en-gb_windows_8_enterprise_x64_dvd_922086.iso
28 MSDN VLK MSDN: almost medium 3454 en_windows_8_enterprise_debug_checked_build_x64_dvd_917527.iso
29 MSDN VLKTechNet VLKRetail VLK MSDN: mediumTechNet: mediumVLSA 23622294 en_windows_8_enterprise_n_x86_dvd_918707.iso
en-gb_windows_8_enterprise_n_x86_dvd_918708.iso
30 MSDN VLKTechNet VLK MSDN: almost medium 2425 en_windows_8_enterprise_n_debug_checked_build_x86_dvd_917534.iso
31 MSDN VLKTechNet VLKRetail VLK MSDN: mediumTechNet: mediumVLSA 32193151 en_windows_8_enterprise_n_x64_dvd_918052.iso
en-gb_windows_8_enterprise_n_x64_dvd_918053.iso
32 MSDN VLK MSDN: almost medium 3338 en_windows_8_enterprise_n_debug_checked_build_x64_dvd_917531.iso
33 Retail VLK VLSA
34 Retail VLK VLSA
35 Retail VLK VLSA
36 Retail VLK VLSA
37 Evaluation public
38 Evaluation public

*There could be another “type 2” of key, i.e. Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) (PK and VLK), as well as another download source (MPN site). As I don’t have access to MPN I don’t dare to give a lot of information about it. So I’m ignoring this in this blog post quite a lot. UPDATE: The same counts for Windows Intune: I don’t have any idea which keys or SKUs are available there.

You can see some SKUs are offered through the same package/file. For example, Windows 8 x86 English and Windows 8 Pro x86 English are both available in the same MSDN/TechNet package.

Every row represents 1 SKU for every language and every “bold state” in column 2. For example, row 31 represents Windows 8 Enterprise N x64, more precisely 2 SKUs (for a certain language), i.e. one for MSDN/TechNet and one for Retail.

All SKUs with the same value for the 2nd column share the same key type. For example, number 1 is Windows 8 x86 and the same SKUs are available from MSDN as well as TechNet. MSDN and TechNet keys for these SKUs can be used to activate. The same keys can be used for number 4, which is the MSDN SKU for Windows 8 x64 Debug/Checked Build. Another example: number 29 is Windows 8 Enterprise N x86 and the same SKUs are available from MSDN as well as TechNet. MSDN and TechNet keys for these SKUs can be used to activate. Other SKUs are available for Retail and are available from the VLSC site, for Volume Licensing/Software Assurance (SA) customers (what I call VLSA in my table). The same MSDN/TechNet keys can be used for the MSDN/TechNet SKUs from row 31, while the same Retail key can be used for the Retail SKUs from row 31.

I must stress the fact that VLK keys do not always work on all VL SKUs. For example, if you have a subscription that gives you access to Windows 8 Pro VL only (and not Enterprise) the VLK key can only be used for the Pro edition. If you however have Pro and Enterprise you can use the same key for both. If you only have Enterprise, the key is limited to Enterprise only. With other words, there are actually sub-classes of VLK keys, each sub-class having a different scope. Which one you get, depends on your subscription.

One thing that draws attention is the fact TechNet doesn’t offer Debug/Checked Builds; as said before, those builds are particularly meant for a small set of developers, so it’s not that weird.

The evaluations have a different file size and name depending on the language. The English build for number 37 is “9200.16384.WIN8_RTM.120725-1247_X86FRE_ENTERPRISE_EVAL_EN-US-HRM_CENA_X86FREE_EN-US_DV5.ISO” (2433 MB) and for number 38 “9200.16384.WIN8_RTM.120725-1247_X64FRE_ENTERPRISE_EVAL_EN-US-HRM_CENA_X64FREE_EN-US_DV5.ISO” (3329 MB). The French x86 build though is named “9200.16384.WIN8_RTM.120725-1247_X86FRE_ENTERPRISE_EVAL_FR-FR-HRM_CENA_X86FREE_FR-FR_DV5.ISO” (2386 MB). You see the names are exactly the same, except for the substring that identifies the language and is present twice. A language is identified through a locale name (like “en-us”) instead of just the name of the language (like “English” or “English (US)” for example).

The first substring is the build number (9200), while the substring “FREE” indicates it’s free (so an evaluation). Some pieces are present twice (like the piece that identifies the language).

Here are the MSDN subscriptions mapped to the target audience naming I’ve used in the above table:

MSDN subscription MSDN: all MSDN: almost all MSDN: medium MSDN: almost medium MSDN: limited
BizSpark

YES

YES

BizSpark Admin

YES

YES

Designer AA

YES

YES

DreamSpark Premium

YES

YES

YES

YES

Expression Professional (Retail)

YES

YES

Expression Professional (VL)

YES

YES

YES

MSDN Essentials

YES

YES

MSDN for Action Pack

YES

YES

MSDN OS (Retail)

YES

YES

YES

YES

MSDN OS (VL)

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Premium with MSDN (MPN)

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Premium with MSDN (Retail)

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Premium with MSDN (VL)

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Pro with MSDN (Retail)

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Pro with MSDN (VL)

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Test Pro with MSDN (Retail)

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Test Pro with MSDN (VL)

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Ultimate with MSDN (MPN)

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Ultimate with MSDN (NFR FTE)

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Ultimate with MSDN (Retail)

YES

YES

YES

YES

VS Ultimate with MSDN (VL)

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

And the same for TechNet subscriptions:

TechNet subscription TechNet: all TechNet: medium TechNet: limited
TechNet for Action Pack

YES

YES

TechNet for Microsoft Competency Partners

YES

YES

TechNet for Microsoft Competency Partners (VL)

YES

YES

TechNet Plus Consumer Service Professional Pilot

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (Certified Partner)

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (NFR Bundle)

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (NFR FTE)

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (NFR MCT)

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (NFR MVP)

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (NFR)

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (Retail)

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (SA)

YES

YES

YES

TechNet Professional (VL)

YES

YES

YES

TechNet Professional with Media (Retail)

YES

YES

TechNet Professional with Media (VL)

YES

YES

TechNet Standard (Retail)

YES

TechNet Standard (VL)

YES

It’s clear the VLSC site doesn’t offer Windows 8 builds, while it does so for the Pro and Enterprise editions. This is not that weird, as the “base” edition (just “Windows 8”) is typically (although not by definition) used in individual home consumer scenarios. Also, the N version is available through all channels (MSDN, TechNet & VLSA), while the K and KN versions are only available through the VLSC site. Don’t ask me why…

The sizes and file names mentioned so far are from the MSDN/TechNet Subscriber site and the MSDN/TechNet Evaluation Center (for the evaluation editions). The VLSC site offers a different set of builds and thus file names and sizes (for the international English version (including the substring “Eng_Intl”) and the British English (“English”)):

Size (MB) VLSC file name
17 23622430 SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_8_32BIT_Eng_Intl_MLF_X18-16099.ISOSW_DVD5_Win_Pro_8_32BIT_English_MLF_X18-16098.ISO
18 32573326 SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_8_64BIT_Eng_Intl_MLF_X18-16135.ISOSW_DVD5_Win_Pro_8_64BIT_English_MLF_X18-16134.ISO
19 22912360 SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_N_8_32BIT_Eng_Intl_MLF_X18-16043.ISOSW_DVD5_Win_Pro_N_8_32BIT_English_MLF_X18-16042.ISO
20 31473216 SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_N_8_64BIT_Eng_Intl_MLF_X18-16067.ISOSW_DVD5_Win_Pro_N_8_64BIT_English_MLF_X18-16066.ISO
21 2366 SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_K_8_32BIT_Korean_MLF_X18-16092.ISO
22 3286 SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_K_8_64BIT_Korean_MLF_X18-16093.ISO
23 2281 SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_KN_8_32BIT_Korean_MLF_X18-16090.ISO
24 3161 SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_KN_8_64BIT_Korean_MLF_X18-16091.ISO
25 23642432 SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_8_32BIT_Eng_Intl_Full_MLF_X18-16219.ISOSW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_8_32BIT_English_Full_MLF_X18-16218.ISO
27 32603329 SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_8_64BIT_Eng_Intl_Full_MLF_X18-16255.ISOSW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_8_64BIT_English_Full_MLF_X18-16254.ISO
29 22932362 SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_N_8_32BIT_Eng_Intl_Full_MLF_X18-16171.ISOSW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_N_8_32BIT_English_Full_MLF_X18-16170.ISO
31 31503219 SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_N_8_64BIT_Eng_Intl_Full_MLF_X18-16195.ISO SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_N_8_64BIT_English_Full_MLF_X18-16194.ISO
33 2368 SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_K_8_32BIT_Korean_Full_MLF_X18-16096.ISO
34 3288 SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_K_8_64BIT_Korean_Full_MLF_X18-16097.ISO
35 2283 SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_KN_8_32BIT_Korean_Full_MLF_X18-16094.ISO
36 3163 SW_DVD5_SA_Win_Ent_KN_8_64BIT_Korean_Full_MLF_X18-16095.ISO

Other languages have another file name because the substring identifying the language is different as well as the number after “X18-“; the file size is different too. For example, the Dutch build for number 17 is 2326 MB and is named “SW_DVD5_Win_Pro_8_32BIT_Dutch_MLF_X18-16109.ISO”.

Which are the differences between the licenses?

Well, as said above, every license is based on 2 categories of types (see their explanation above for details). Still, a few specifics are added to each particular EULA, because every SKU has different characteristics. For example, a Retail PK license for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro are quite the same, except for a few specifics which are valid for the Pro edition, but don’t exist for the “normal” Windows 8 edition. For instance, some pieces of the Pro EULA deal with Client Hyper-V, but this one only exists in the Pro edition. Another difference is the amount of CPUs supported: Windows 8 supports 1 CPU, but Windows 8 Pro supports two of them (the number of cores supported though is unlimited). Yet another example: Windows 8 only supports Remote Desktop as a client, while Pro supports it as client and server, with a few differences in the EULA related to this topic of course.

What is VDA?

Special items also listed on the VLSC site are these:

  • VDA 8: Windows 8 Enterprise
  • VDA N 8: Windows 8 Enterprise N
  • VDA K 8: Windows 8 Enterprise K
  • VDA KN 8: Windows 8 Enterprise KN

Those VDA items are literally just the same as their corresponding Windows 8 Enterprise packages (same file names, sizes, languages,… it’s literally the same). VDA stands Virtual Desktop Access and is a licensing mechanism for “accessing devices” connecting to a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Those enterprise “terminal devices” (thin clients for example) can be licensed through Software Assurance (SA) or in a non-SA way (and then we have VDA). I’m not going to discuss why, how or what about SA, VDI and VDA here, but the thing is Windows 8 Enterprise is used and the VLSC site mentions those SKUs separately to indicate those should be used for VDA. It’s a pity this is quite confusing, as it gives the impression it’s a software product, while it isn’t.

Where to find everything on VLSC?

Note that on the VLSC site every Windows 8 item is listed under the category “Windows”, except for those things that are related to the Software Assurance (SA) part. In that case you can find it under the category “Software Assurance” and I’m talking about Windows 8 Enterprise SKUs and Windows 8 Language Packs.

Downloading

One last thing about downloading: you can do this the classic way or through Download Manager from Akamai Technologies Inc. To download the evaluations only the Download Manager way is possible.

Upgrades

Hey, what about upgrade builds? Where are they? Don’t worry, they don’t exist anymore. What?

Relax, there is no need to worry. A build can now be used for a fresh install or for a technical upgrade from Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7. If Microsoft speaks of upgrades now, they mean “license upgrades”.

You can buy a Windows 8 Pro PK (!) SKU for a lower price if you have already a key for Windows XP, Vista or 7 (Retail, OEM or System Builder):

  • For USD 39.99 if bought online, starting from the 26th of October 2012 till the 31st of January 2013
  • For USD 14.99 (in the US), € 14.99 (in the EU) or other prices (depending on your country) if you have bought a system with a Windows OEM key between and including the 2nd of June 2012 and the 31st of January 2013 and if you register for this action. This upgrade is called Windows Upgrade Offer. More information and registration can occur on the action’s website (http://windowsupgradeoffer.com). Registration was opened on the 20th of August 2012 and you have until the 28th of February 2013 to do this. The offer is valid in 140 countries (yes, 9 more than announced at first), 23 currencies are supported as well as 37 languages. Just have your 25 digit key from your previous Windows version handy! J Ater GA you get a promo code which you can use with the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, where you can buy the actual upgrade from.

UPDATE: Of course there are a few limitations concerning the edition of the source OS. For Windows 7 for instance, you need to have Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate. Starter isn’t supported for an upgrade to Windows 8 though, neither is Enterprise. The latter is very logical, because this edition is only meant for enterprises with a Volume Licensing/Software Assurance  agreement and those get access to Windows 8 whatsoever (all with VLK keys, just like Enterprise, which only exists in an VLK flavor).

If you have Windows 8, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro to the Pro Pack. Actually this pack also contains the Media Center pack, which can be bought by Windows 8 Pro users separately to be able to do DVD playback (and other Media Pack features).

Downgrades

Just like this was possible with previous versions of Windows, it’s now also allowed to downgrade from Windows 8 IF the edition is Pro AND the license type is OEM. UPDATE: You can downgrade to Windows 7 Professional or
Windows Vista Business.

Transfers

Can you transfer use license to another system? Well, I have good news for you: yes! J Of course you can only use the license for and have it installed on 1 system at a time, but I repeat: it IS possible to reuse it on another system (of course this isn’t possible with an OEM license). You may even transfer it to someone else (in that case you may also transfer the bundle of license with hardware if coming from an OEM). If you pass it to somebody else, you must transfer the CoA (if there should be one), proof of purchase (oh yes, this is a very important reason to not throw this away!), software and computer system (if from an OEM) along too and you are not allowed to hold a copy of the software anymore. Note the extra software sold with Windows must always be tied to the system they were purchased for (and this includes Pro Pack, Media Pack and Get Genuine Windows software); this means you can transfer it together with the original OEM system, but that’s it.

There is no limit to the amount of times you transfer the license for yourself (so don’t hold yourself and play around the way you want! J), but a transfer to another person can only be done by the original user.

Sideloading

From the VLSC site it’s now also possible to get a code to sideload Metro apps. Take a look in your list of products and search for “Enterprise Sideloading for Windows 8 Apps MAK”. The key is a MAK key. It’s not really used for installing a Microsoft product and hence there is no download associated with this item; only a key.

What can we expect in the future?

Well, I think we can expect a lot of Retail PK, OEM and Personal Use License for System Builder SKUs and keys starting from the 26th of October 2012, which is GA day and marks the real beginning of the new ecosystem. I guess we can expect this for the “Starter” edition(s), Windows 8 and the Pro edition; for 32 and 64 bit; for the “base” sub-edition, as well as the N, K and KN sub-editions; no checked builds; for a lot of languages. We can also expect Windows RT bundled with hardware, supposedly in a few languages, but with no extra differences (not checked, 1 architecture (ARM), no special sub-editions (I think…) and only with an OEM PK key/license).

A Retail PK online upgrade offer (USD 39.99) is already announced (see above in the section “Upgrades”); it’s valid till the 32st of January 2013. It’s also rumored there will be a real physical package (Full Packaged Product (FPP)) with a real, physical DVD, which will cost USD 69,99 till the 31st of January 2013 and USD 199 after that. If true it’s not very obvious if this is an upgrade package or not. I think we may expect the online upgrade offer to exist after the 31st of January 2013, but probably at a higher price (although this could depend on how successful Windows 8 is…). I also think we may expect an online non-upgrade package. It must be noted some people think no FPP will be available at all. For Personal Use License for System Builder packages I suspect at least an online offer will be made available, perhaps even for upgrades. I don’t think upgrade and non-upgrade deals of the same kind (for example, Retail PK) will use the same SKU (which wasn’t the case in the past); it’s more about how the keys can be obtained (just like that or after proving you have a valid license of an older Windows version).

Language packs

Except for “Starter” editions (as rumored) every Windows 8 SKU is multilanguage; yes, you read this right. This is a huge difference from earlier Windows versions. You do need a language pack for every language you want though. After downloading and installing such a language pack you can use the language contained in the pack. You can download the pack from within Windows, but this feature doesn’t seem to be activated yet for the RTM. You may also download a whole set of language packs, called “Windows 8 Language Pack”.

The Windows 8 Language Pack is available in 2 flavors (both in ISO file format):

  • Windows 8 Language Pack (x86) – DVD (Multiple Languages): for Windows 8 x86 SKUs
    • MSDN/TechNet:
      • File name: mu_windows_8_language_pack_x86_dvd_917546.iso
      • Size: 1497 MB
      • Use: for MSDN/TechNet Windows 8 x86 builds
    • VLSA:
      • File name: SW_DVD5_Win_8_W32_MultiLanguage_except_ChnTrad_Language_Pack_X18-17166.ISO
      • Size: 1496 MB
      • Use: for Retail VLK Windows 8 x86 builds
  • Windows 8 Language Pack (x64) – DVD (Multiple Languages):
    • MSDN/TechNet:
      • File name: mu_windows_8_language_pack_x64_dvd_917544.iso
      • Size: 2090 MB
      • Use: for MSDN/TechNet Windows 8 x64 builds
    • VLSA:
      • File name: SW_DVD5_Win_8_64Bit_MultiLanguage_except_ChnTrad_Language_Pack_X18-17845.ISO
      • Size: 2089 MB
      • Use: for Retail Windows 8 x86 builds

So no, you don’t need separate language packs for different editions, languages or whatever; the package you need only depends on your architecture and the license type. It’s not very clear if there is an MPN variant too (as said before, I don’t have a clue which SKUs are offered at MPN).

The language packs can be downloaded from

The file names of the MSDN/TechNet packages begin with “mu”, standing for “multiple languages” or “multilanguage”. The packages contain 36 languages, being Arabic, Brazilian (this is the same as “Portuguese (Brazil)”), Bulgarian, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Traditional Hong Kong (= Chinese-Hong Kong SAR), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (i.e. British English, on MSDN/TechNet this is called “English-United Kingdom”), English International (on MSDN/TechNet this is called “English”), Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian Latin, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish and Ukrainian. Those are the same languages for which you can download Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro builds which are not N, K or KN, except for Chinese Traditional (hence the substring “MultiLanguage_except_ChnTrad” in the file names of the VLSC packages) and added with Korean (which exists for K and KN versions of Windows 8).

MSDN and TechNet give the impression the package is available in the following languages, although this seems to be untrue, as I don’t see how it the package could exist in more than 1 language (there is no setup or so) and I don’t have the choice to choose a language for the download: English, Japanese, Arabic, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, German, Greek, Spanish, Estonian, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Croatian, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese-Brazil, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Serbian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Multi-Language, Chinese – Hong Kong SAR, Chinese – Taiwan, Chinese – Simplified, Portuguese-Portugal, Kyrgyz.

The VLSC site also mentions 36 languages for download, but this time those make up the content of the package (personally I think it’s confusing to be able to select a language for downloading when it actually doesn’t really matter).

No key is needed for installation and use of a Windows 8 Language Pack.

Symbols

When debugging symbols can be downloaded for modules being debugged to “name” functions, so debugging becomes more doable. The symbols for Windows 8 can be downloaded as a whole package though, so debug tools can refer to them and no or less symbols still have to be downloaded. This makes debugging faster, sometimes reduces bandwidth usage (some enterprises have many, many developers/debuggers, so this could result in a LOT of symbol downloads), “solves” problems related to proxy settings or download permissions (for example, in some organizations it could be downloading is prohibited from debug machines), etc.

Symbols are available as follows:

  • Windows 8 Symbols (x86) – (English): for Windows 8 x86 SKUs which are not checked builds
    • Name: en_windows_8_symbols_x86_919741.msi
    • Size: 543 MB
  • Windows 8 Symbols Debug/Checked Build (x86) – (English): for Windows 8 x86 Debug/Checked Build SKUs
    • Name: en_windows_8_symbols_debug_checked_build_x86_919740.msi
    • Size: 482 MB
  • Windows 8 Symbols (x64) – (English): for Windows 8 x64 SKUs which are not checked builds
    • Name: en_windows_8_symbols_x64_919739.msi
    • Size: 547 MB
  • Windows 8 Symbols Debug/Checked Build (x64) – (English): for Windows 8 x64 Debug/Checked Build SKUs
    • Name: en_windows_8_symbols_debug_checked_build_x64_919738.msi
    • Size: 476 MB

The symbol packages can be downloaded from

The symbol packages are only available in international English and can also be used for Windows Server 2012 if I’m right.

Windows Server 2012

Editions and releases

Windows Server 2012 Essentials is available since the 21st of August 2012 as a Release Candidate (RC) (from the TechNet Evaluation Center: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/evalcenter/hh670538.aspx). So it seems not every edition has been RTM’d yet! Although not explicitly said, I suspect both Standard and Datacenter were RTM’d on the 1st of August 2012, the day Windows Server 2012 was officially RTM’d. It’s said the Essentials edition will be RTM’d and released later this year. Remember there is also a Foundation edition. I have no idea what’s the release status of this edition, but I guess we may expect a release later this year too. Foundation can’t be bought separately, it’s only meant to be bundled with OEM hardware. Essentials is considered the successor of Small Business Server (SBS) and Essential Business Server (EBS) and is limited to 25 users and 50 devices. Standard is the normal edition, containing every feature, but virtualization is very limited. Datacenter has no limits at all. Windows Server 2012 is and will only be available for the 64 bit (x64) architecture.

Windows Server 2012’s GA is on the 4th of September 2012, also with a virtual launch event (http://windowsserverlaunch.com).

Test releases

There were 3 public or semi-public test releases for Windows Server 2012:

  • Windows 8 Server Developer Preview: this one wasn’t made public, but it was available to a certain non-selected audience, like Volume License/Software Assurance (SA) customers.
  • Windows Server “8” Beta: yup, including the double quotes J This one was made public.
  • Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate (RC). Also publicly available.

SKUs

Windows Server 2012 has been released on the 15th of August in the Windows Azure Virtual Machine Gallery and since a few days also for Volume Licensing/Software Assurance (SA) customers AFAIK (I don’t see it appear on MSDN or TechNet, nor do I see any kind of evaluation edition at the time of writing). Windows Server 2012 Standard and Datacenter are ready for download through the VLSC site, as is Windows Server Language Pack 2012.

Windows Server 2012 is available on the VLSC site under the category “Windows Server”. The following stuff is there to download:

Edition Architecture Key type (PK/VLK) Language
1 Standard x64 [normal] 19
2 Datacenter x64 [normal] 19

[normal] is a VLK in this case. As it’s only available from the VLSC site, we only have a Retail VLK type of key (and related EULA) for now.

Each one is available in 19 languages, i.e. Brazilian (which is actually Brazilian Portuguese), Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Chinese Traditional Hong Kong, Czech, Dutch, English (international English), French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

The English version is named SW_DVD5_Win_Svr_Std_and_DataCtr_2012_64Bit_English_Core_MLF_X18-27588.ISO and its size is 3522 MB. “Svr” stands for “Server”, “Std” for Standard and “DataCtr” for “Datacenter”. The same for another language gives the same name, except for the substring “English”, which gets replaced of course, and the last number (after “X18-“); the size differs for each language too. For example, the Dutch version is named SW_DVD5_Win_Svr_Std_and_DataCtr_2012_64Bit_Dutch_Core_MLF_X18-27624.ISO (3559 MB). The fact “Std” and “DataCtr” are both mentioned in the file name means both SKU series are contained in the same package. The MAK keys, which are different for both editions, determine which edition you get if you use MAK; the KMS key covers both. It’s possible to change the edition after installation too.

Language pack

No key is needed for installation and use of a Windows Server 2012 Language Pack, which is only available for x64, named SW_DVD5_NTRL_Win_Svr_Language_Pack_2012_64Bit_MultiLang_FPP_VL_OEM_X18-27741.ISO and 1724 MB large. The VLSC site gives the opportunity to select one of 19 languages (the same as just mentioned), but those are not languages for the Language Pack itself, but content languages of the package. When you install the Language Pack you can use 19 different languages on Windows Server 2012 (x64).

Windows Phone 8

Yes, Windows Phone is part of the “broad” Windows family now, not only in name, but also technically spoken. Windows Phone has been announced officially in June 2012 at the Windows Phone Summit. It’s rumored WP8 will be RTM’d in September 2012 and completely unveiled at the 5th of September 2012, at Nokia World and at a joint Microsoft-Nokia press conference in New York. Sume rumors say devices will actually be released in September 2012, others say this should be expected in November 2012, but most rumors talk about October 2012.

Windows Embedded 8

Also called Windows Embedded v.Next, this sub-family contains the following editions:

  • Enterprise ‘Next’
  • Standard
  • Compact ‘Next’

The Standard edition has known the following public test releases till now:

  • Community Technology Preview (CTP)
  • Community Technology Preview 2 (CTP 2)

I don’t know when those editions will be RTM’d and released, but I guess we may expect them later this year or in Q1 or Q2 of 2013.

Other stuff

Visual Studio 2012 & Team Foundation Server 2012

On the 15th of August 2012 MSDN Subscribers (not TechNet Subscribers!) also got the chance to get another release: Visual Studio (VS) 2012, the latest version optimized for Windows 8, including Metro applications. On the 16th of August 2012 this became available for Volume Licensing/Software Assurance customers too, this time for any purpose and environment (again, license agreements!! J). You need Windows 8 (RTM!) to install every RTM VS edition. It includes Blend for Visual Studio and the Windows 8 SDK, the latest version of the Windows Software Development Kit (SDK).

An edition of VS, i.e. Visual Studio Express 2012, is available for everyone for free: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/apps/hh852659. The Express edition is available in 10 languages (well, actually 14): English (international English), Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. Language packs exist for Czech, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil) and Turkish.

There are also evaluations for Visual Studio 2012: http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/11/en-us/downloads.

I hope to provide you with more information on the released VS 2012 SKUs (from the “MSDN Subscriber Downloads” page (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/downloads) and the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) website (http://www.microsoft.com/Licensing/servicecenter) as soon as possible. So more details about this and the also released Team Foundation Server (TFS) 2012 later.

Visual Studio will get its General Availability (GA) on the 12th of September 2012 and will get a virtual launch event (http://www.visualstudiolaunch.com). That’s when you will be able to get packaged products in your hands, although you could purchase VS digitally in some regions in a few days (or perhaps it’s already possible by now, I don’t know exactly…).

It’s interesting to know Blend + SketchFlow (needed for WPF, Silverlight and SketchFlow) has been previewed on the 15th of August 2012. We may expect this RTM very soon I guess. However, the Windows Azure SDK for .NET (June 2012: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/somasegar/archive/2012/06/07/visual-studio-2012-and-the-windows-azure-sdk-for-net.aspx) and the Microsoft Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio 2012 (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/somasegar/archive/2012/07/17/office-development-with-visual-studio-2012-and-napa.aspx) are already updated.

Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) for Windows 8

The Windows 8 SDK, officially called “Windows Software Development Kit (SDK) for Windows 8”, is also available separately from http://msdn.microsoft.com/nl-be/windows/desktop/hh852363. This one can be installed on older Windows versions too.

Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit for Windows 8, Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9

The solution accelerator “Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit for Windows 8, Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9” has been RTM’d and released too. Information and download can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/solutionaccelerators/dd627342.

Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit for Windows 8

Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK or just ADK) for Windows 8 has been RTM’d and released too (31st of July 2012): http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30652. The ADK combines the previous Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK or WAIK) with the previous OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK). The ADK now contains the Application Compatibility Kit (ACT) and the Windows Performance Toolkit. A new component is Windows Assessment Toolkit.

Windows Driver Kit 8

And the story continues… Windows Driver Kit (WDK) 8 is here too since the 15th of August 2012: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/hardware/hh852362. Great to know is the fact it integrates with Visual Studio 2012!

Windows Hardware Certification Kit

Let’s go on! Windows Hardware Certification Kit (HCK), the new Windows Logo Program (WLP), is available since the 15th of August 2012 from http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/hardware/hh852359. If you want your hardware to be officially Windows 8 certified, you definitely need this kit!

Windows Store

Opened on the 1st of August 2012 is the Windows Store, but only for paid applications. Yes, the Windows Store was already there since Windows 8 Consumer Preview, but only for selected partners could fill up the store. Now it’s open for everyone. This also means everyone can now register as a developer, write apps (but this must be for the RTM build!) and upload them (they have to pass the certification policies before it gets published though!). I guess other app types (like free apps) will also be allowed soon, at least a few weeks before the GA I think.

The Windows Store supports 109 languages, 38 application submission/certification languages and 80 markets (app catalogs), which will be extended to more than 200 in the next few months.

Cloud services

A lot of Internet/cloud services were or are being redesigned. One example is SkyDrive (site and applications), which new version has been RTM’d a few days ago. Another example is Outlook.com, the successor of Hotmail. Outlook.com is in preview right now and is expected to RTM and replace Hotmail in 2013. The software package that supports the Live services has RTM’d too: Windows Essentials 2012 is just here, ready to download and install; Live Mesh has disappeared, which is a pity for some people (personally I think Live Mesh is outdated in this new world, but I think SkyDrive should be extended to do much more, so it could replace Live Mesh and even beyond that). Bing services are also being reimagined. Bing Search for example has gotten a whole new version, but it’s only available in the US right now. Hopefully it comes to the rest of the world very soon…

Internet Explorer 10 and .NET Framework 4.5

Together with Windows 8 Internet Explorer (IE ) 10 and .NET Framework 4.5 were also RTM’d, as they belong to Windows 8. IE 10 is not available separately yet, but the .NET Framework 4.5 redistributable can be found at http://ww.microsoft.com/net.

Others

Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) for Windows 8 is still in test now (for Windows 8 Release Preview) and Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) (you know, with App-V 5.0, DaRT, UE-V and MBAM) is still in beta stage. Personally I think we may expect them soon.

Also probably to be expected soon is the Windows Phone 8 SDK, which is rumored to be released on the 7th of September 2012, although recently it has been said (but probably not completely officially) it would become available after mid-September. The latest rumor talks about the 12th of September 2012, because that’s also the GA day for VS 2012 (with a virtual launch event).

It’s not really falling under the topic of this article, but still it’s related. System Center 2012 already exists for a few months now, as is the case for Microsoft Deployment Kit (MDT) 2012. We have to wait for SP1 for System Center 2012 before the new generation Windows is supported and for MDT we had to wait for “Update 1” (and Update 2 for full support). Did you see what I’ve just written? “had”… Indeed, MDT 2012 Update 1 was released on the 16th of August 2012. Here it is: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=25175.

When you think of Windows, it could be you’re also thinking of Office. Office 2013 hasn’t been RTM’d yet (let alone be released), but there is a Customer Preview out there. It’s expected Office 2013 will be released later this year and will be GA’d in the first half of 2013. There will be a special edition for Windows RT.

We may also expect new versions of Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, Xbox and many, many other products.

I hope this has provided you with a complete and updated overview of everything that has been released by now related to Windows 8 and other products. Enjoy all the new stuff! J

Pedro

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2 thoughts on “Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and many others: a complete and updated overview of their releases and related aspects

    Selvaganapathy said:
    19/07/2013 at 10:49

    Hello Pedre Pedro,
    Thanks for the input and it provided an idea about the Win 8. I am an automation guy and I look for some clarity from you.
    Our testing requirement is Win 8 (soon) -we plan to run the Stuff in Server boxes (with more users and less time ). here I need some inputs from your end.Thanks in advance.
    1. Do we have Windows Server 8 and so how may users it will suport (I like to have 20 users)
    2. If so, will the arch of Window 8 (So called client/Desk top) and windows Server 8 same?
    3. Are windows Server 8 and Windows 2012 are same ? ( is it Same OS called with different name )
    4. Also can I say Windows 8 compatible server models are Win 8 and Windows 2012 ?

      Padre Pedro said:
      05/08/2013 at 15:34

      Hi, Windows Server 8 was the temporary name used during development. At a certain moment the final name was made public: Windows Server 2012. So, yes, they refer to the same OS main version, but to different builds. Multiple editions of Windows Server 2012 exist, with the Essentials edition supporting up to 25 users.

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