So we’ve been letting the dust settle on the Windows 8 platform and what we wanted to do now was to answer a few questions that we have been getting about which version of W8 is for what.  Microsoft has finally converged all of its operating systems onto the Windows 8 platform which is wonderful for the marketeers but what does this now mean for end users?  We know from the sheer number of questions about Windows 8 with regard to rugged handhelds, smartphones, tables and even tills that our general public are probably quite confused and so were we if the truth be told!  This article attempts to lay things out in laymen’s terms for you all.

What versions of Windows 8 are there, what are they for and what do they replace?

Full Windows

Lets start with the replacements for full Windows 7.  In a nutshell Windows 8 Pro replaces anything you had running on a laptop or desktop.  Windows 8 Pro is also available on tablets too.  The upside to that is that a W8 Pro tablet is now the only tablet you need, the downside is that W8 pro is quite powerful and is still not quite suited to the “mobile” tablet experience in terms of battery usage etc as it’s designed to run on the full X86 architecture that full laptops and some tablets use.  Atom is getting there but it is nowhere near where the ARM chips are.

So step in Windows 8 RT.  This is the closest OS and experience you’ll get to that of an Apple or Android tablet.  RT is locked, using an app store to expand its features and it’s designed to run on ARM based devices.  The smartphone in your hand right now is probably running an ARM chip, Apples do, most consumer grade tablets do too and they’re designed specifically for the mobile scenario.


Windows 8 Phone replaces the Windows Phone 7.x series.  This is what we call the smartphone OS and it’s what you’ll get if you buy a handheld like the Nokia Lumia.  Adverts of Holly Willoughby and James Corden spring to mind, as does that famous Mr Jobsian “no taste” comment too!

Rugged Handhelds

This is where the most change has happened for us.  Rugged Handhelds have 2 lines of OS.  Windows CE and the more popular Windows Mobile line.  Now listen carefully!  Windows CE turned into, Windows Embedded compact 7, which has now turned into Windows embedded 8.  Microsoft don’t want to see the CE line on handhelds any more, this OS is now right back in the embedded team and it has various flavours for various types of devices.  more on that later!

Windows Mobile 6.5, turned into Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5, which was largely the same OS and unrecognisable really to the eye.  This in turn changed to Windows Embedded handheld 7 and to my knowledge no-one ever saw that! but most importantly this has just turned in to Windows 8 Embedded Handheld.

So if you buy a Rugged Handheld PDA then W8 embedded Handheld is what you’ll need and what you’ll get!

So to wrap up the rest of the Windows 8 Embedded series.  we also have:

W8 Embedded 8 standard – Used for devices where full W8 power is needed but customisation of the OS and how much is locked down is required too.

W8 Embedded 8 Pro – Replaces W7 for embedded systems.

W8 Embedded 8 Industry – Replaces POSReady OS versions and is used for industry specific device support.

W8 Embedded 8 Automotive – Used for in vehicle solutions.  Ford in the USA and Fiat have been using this tech for years now as the core of their vehicle media and entertainment but it can do way more than that.

Confused yet?  C’mon it wouldn’t be Microsoft if you weren’t!  Note that all of these operating systems are available now, some commercially, some in pilot/test modes so you can go and download them and play whenever you want to.

I’m more than happy to take comments from anyone on this.  This is the stab from us, anything that helps our readers is more than welcomed!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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3 Responses

  1. Steve

    Does anyone know if there is currently a handheld device WITH a keyboard using Windows 8 Embedded of any variety, or if any manufacturer plans to make one?

    • ruggedandmobile

      Not to our knowledge Steve yet. We have asked all the main manufacturers and some of the smaller ones but no-one seems to be sharing what they’re doing just yet i’m afraid. We’ll be sure to post something here or on our twitter feed when we learn more.

      • ruggedandmobile

        Hi Steve, so sorry for the delay getting back to you, your comment got lost in the list!

        Some rugged devices still have GPRS options for their chips and they are actually cheaper than the 3G based chips. Generally you save about £50 per device.