Since the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 8 I have had a lot of people ask me the differences between the Pro SKU and the Enterprise SKU.  It is a fair question, because ever since the introduction of Pro/Business and Enterprise SKUs in Windows XP these differences have changed in every version.  Here’s a simple list of the differences.

Features available only in Windows 8 Enterprise

  • Branch Cache Support
  • Can disable first sign-in animation
  • DirectAccess support
  • Windows To Go
  • Remote Desktop improvements for VDI:
    • Remote Desktop Advanced Compression
    • Remote Desktop Direct3D Remoting
    • Remote Desktop PnP Device Redirection
    • Remote Desktop Remote Applications

While that is the list of features available in Enterprise and not Pro, there is one feature of Pro that is not available in Enterprise.

Feature not available in Windows 8 Enterprise

  • Cannot add Windows Media Center

To be clear, the Media Player is still in Enterprise, although it is deprecated – you cannot play a DVD, a shortcoming that I discovered recently on a 2-day road trip with my children in the back seat.  The workaround for this, of course, is to install a 3rd party DVD player.

Now in Professional…

The one feature that I have heard the most complaints about in the past is BitLocker.  People have been asking why it was not in the Windows 7 Professional SKU… every business should have it, and it wasn’t fair to only include it in the highest SKUs.  Your pleas have been heard; this has been addressed with the inclusion of both BitLocker and BitLocker to Go in the Pro SKU.  This is very exciting for those people who will still choose the Pro SKU, but want to protect their information.

Let’s Get Virtual!

The client-side hypervisor (Hyper-V) is included in both SKUs (although it is not included in the base edition).  As long as you have the pre-requisites for it (64-bit hardware, OS).  That is not a deciding factor.

How can I possibly… I’m a small shop!

If you are a business with hundreds of thousands of desktops then there is a very good chance that you have an Enterprise Agreement in place, and that your company has the use rights for Enterprise.  What about smaller shops… even a company of less than 10 users?  I was speaking to a consultant at a recent event who loved the idea of Windows To Go, but because he was a two-man operation he did not have any infrastructure, or an EA.  He told me that he loved his Windows Intune subscription because he could manage patch management and security on his laptops without a server infrastructure.  He didn’t realize that for $1 extra per month his Windows Intune subscription includes use rights for Windows 8 Enterprise!

Conclusion

I can see people working from home choosing the Windows 8 Pro SKU, because the Media Center really is great – it allows you to run your TVs and entertainment from the computer, and I loved it since I started using it in Windows Vista.  For remote workers (and anyone who does NOT need the Media capabilities) then I see no disadvantage to the Enterprise SKU.  Windows To Go is a game changer, I love DirectAccess, and the improvements to Remote Desktop – especially when it comes to Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) – are huge.  Some businesses will not leverage these, others will. 

When it is time for you to make the decision for your company, make sure you know all of the factors before deciding.  That way you will always know that you made the right decision.