Upgrades to the enterprise version of Windows 8 will be restricted to volume-license holders of certain Windows 7 editions under Microsoft's Software Assurance program, according to private partner information leaked overnight.
The upgrade paths, first reported by ZDNet US, will see existing Windows 7 owners allowed to keep existing settings, personal files and applications in the upgrade, but will restrict the the path from certain versions of the predecessor operating system.
Users of Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate versions can upgrade to the basic consumer version of Windows 8, or the beefier Pro version — also targeted at businesses — with user data and applications left intact.
But attempts to upgrade from more basic versions of Windows 7 to the enterprise variant of its successor is likely to be thwarted.
Microsoft has previously said the enterprise version would add additional features simplifying "PC management and deployment, advanced security, virtualisation [and] new mobility scenarios".
But the restriction to Software Assurance volume licensing holders would come as a pain to those companies who have long lamented the program's significant price increases and upgrade pressures.
Over the years, Microsoft has fragmented its Windows operating system into different versions as well as editions with more or less features, which has resulted in complicated upgrade scenarios for users.
Users still on Windows XP and Vista, but hoping to upgrade to Windows 8, might find it more difficult to keep existing data and settings.
When upgrading to Windows 8 from XP with Service Pack 3 or higher, only personal data will be preserved. Vista users need to apply Service Pack 1 in order to keep system settings as well as personal data; otherwise only the latter is kept.
Those wanting to upgrade to Windows 8 from one language to another, or from a 32-bit Windows variant to a 64-bit one, will need to do a fresh install.
Microsoft’s new operating system is expected to go on sale in August this year. Those who buy a PC beforehand can register for upgrades, allowing them to purchase a downloadable Windows 8 Pro for $19.99, with the offer valid until February next year.