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An accidentally leaked document from HP may point to a greatly simplified range of options when Microsoft releases Windows 8 later this year.

With the Windows 8 Consumer Preview now released manufacturers and those planning a PC purchase later this year can give some though to which version of Windows 8 they'll need. Unlike Apple who releases a single version of OS X. Microsoft has been releasing different versions of its desktop OS since the introduction of Windows XP.

With Windows 7, customers could choose between Enterprise, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Starter and Ultimate editions. All of those, with the exception of Starter, came in 32 and 64 bit variants giving a total of 11 different versions not counting upgrade versions. Buying a copy Windows 7 from a local reseller was an exercise in confusion. Trust us on this - we tried!.

The leaked document that has since been updated, reveals just three main version designated Professional, Enterprise and plain old Windows 8. Each comes in 32 and 64 bit variants and we assume that there will be both full and upgrade versions. That makes a total of just six versions.

This is good news for consumers. Faced with fewer, artificially created product differences, buyers will be able to make more informed decisions, particularly if the Microsoft communications team can make it clear where each version is best used rather than simply listing complex lists of features written in technobabble.

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