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Microsoft this afternoon announced plans to simplify the way it packages and sells Windows, announcing that the next version of the operating system will come in only three editions: Windows 8 for consumers, Windows 8 Pro for enthusiasts and business professionals, and a special version called Windows RT for ARM processors.

It’s a significant streamlining of the Windows product lineup, responding to a longstanding criticism of the Microsoft operating system and its complicated array of editions for businesses and consumers.

The new Windows 8 editions were announced today in this Windows blog post, along with a chart showing the capabilities of each version.

“We have talked about Windows 8 as Windows reimagined, from the chipset to the user experience,” writes Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc. “This also applies to the editions available – we have worked to make it easier for customers to know what edition will work best for them when they purchase a new Windows 8 PC or upgrade their existing PC.”

Windows 7 comes in six main editions, including Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 7 Ultimate.

Microsoft still isn’t saying when Windows 8 will come out, but it’s widely expected this year.

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