The various flavours of Windows about to hit the street will confound consumers, a panel of analysts and OEMs concluded at the recent Canalys Channels Forum.
Redmond is preparing to release the Basic x86 Windows 8 (Standard, Pro and Enterprise) and Windows RT operating systems on 26 October, with Windows Phone 8 out in a week. In front of an audience of resellers at the event in Barcelona earlier this month, HP veep of worldwide channel development and SMB Dan Tindall said: "I think it [the situation] is a little confusing right now."
"I don't think that most people are clear on what all this means, but to be fair Microsoft has not yet launched what I think will be a material campaign around that," he added.
The difference between the ARM-based RT version of Windows and full-blown Intel-based systems have not been clarified to consumers, said PC giant Lenovo.
"Most of us did not want to disclose what we were doing on the RT platform, most vendors didn't announce anything," said Neil Berville, Lenovo exec director for EMEA channels and programmes.
He said Lenovo had released details on its Intel-based system at CES in January but had waited until less a fortnight ago before divulging info on the RT model.
Berville did not reveal why this was the case, but Microsoft has done a good job of upsetting some OEMs by developing its own hardware, with the Surface slab, and licensing costs are understood to be relatively high to those of Android - around $80 per licence.
RT is likely to have a longer battery life and to be lighter in weight than a PC and it's certainly priced more cheaply but that comes at a cost.
On its Windows blog, Microsoft said Window RT will not run legacy or new x86/x64 programs; will run only on ARM-powered devices; and, while it will have a desktop mode, this will be limited to Microsoft-created touch versions of Word, Excel, One Note and PowerPoint.
Around 6,000 apps are ready for download from Microsoft's app store at launch this week, with 100,000 apps promised by February 2013.
Tim Coulling, analyst at Canalys, agreed that consumers will be reaching for their glasses when Windows hits the markets, but added that "at the point of sale it will need to be properly explained".
This is assuming the retailers understand it. ®