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I've found some references, when looking for information on WAIK installs of Windows 8 of a varient called Windows 8 core, that can be installed off the professional edition disk. There's also a mention of it on Win Super Site that says

The cheapest, called MSDN Operating Systems, costs $699 a year ($499 renewal), and of course includes Windows 8 (Core), Windows 8 Pro, and Windows 8 Enterprise. You get five licenses each for Windows 8 Core and Pro, and one Multiple Activation Key (MAK) for Windows 8 Enterprise.

What is Windows 8 core? Is it the new 'home' edition or something else? What differentiates it from the pro and enterprise editions?

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It's not part of the proper name; the word "core" is taking its generic English language meaning as a modifier, to differentiate this edition of Windows 8 from the editions whose names have suffices. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 21 '12 at 22:13
It looks like in Windows 8 Core means what Home means in Windows 7 and Windows 10. – zespri Jul 31 '15 at 23:00
up vote 21 down vote accepted

Windows 8 (Core) is simply Windows 8. It's the base (core) product, which Pro and Enterprise built on.

And I say that because I can find no official reference to a Core product and it was in parenthesis in your source (compared to the other editions where no parenthesis was used).

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The only references to it are in the logs. If you look at various Setup logs, you'll find lines like: Source OS: Host SKU Info: Edition = 'Core', Edition Type = 'Complete', Product Name = 'Windows 8', Arch = amd64, etc. – SilverbackNet Oct 19 '13 at 1:07

The "Core" from "Windows 8 Core" simply emphasizes it is the "plain" Windows 8 and not one of the other versions (Pro, Enterprise, RT).

Paul Thurrott of WinSuperSite explicitly names Windows 8 Core in his giant comparison table of different Windows 8 editions (notice the plain "Windows 8" is absent from the table because it is referred to as "Core"):

enter image description here

More information about the different editions of Windows 8.

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Well that's confusing. – nhinkle Oct 21 '12 at 17:19
I'm pretty dubious about this table. For one, RT apparently only supports dual core CPUs, yet the specifications for the Surface RT say it has a quad core Tegra 3. I'm also almost certain that RT can play MP4 (H.264) video. – Bojangles Oct 21 '12 at 19:33
@JamWaffles: cores ≥ physical processors. Theoretically, Windows RT could support two Tegra 3's for a total of 8 cores. Paul Thurrott is a very reputable source for Windows-related information. – Leftium Oct 21 '12 at 20:20
+1 for the table – Matthias Oct 21 '12 at 20:53
Interestingly MS has their own graph sans enterprise edition that 'just' calls it Windows 8 in a blog post that was linked from winsupersite. Both answers were good, but I found oliver's answer clearer. Upvotes all around though! – Journeyman Geek Oct 22 '12 at 2:05

It means the "Home" edition for all intents and purposes. Perhaps the best source for this is MSFT's own site (for Windows programmers). Search for "PRODUCT_CORE" here (which programmers rely on) and look at the "Meaning" column:

Note that it currently refers to it as "Windows 10 Home" but all other editions have their own qualifiers (e.g., search for "PRODUCT_PROFESSIONAL", "PRODUCT_ENTERPRISE", etc.) In fact, prior to the release of Windows 10, the "Meaning" column for "PRODUCT_CORE" (at the same link) referred to it as simply "Windows 8", which normally means the home edition by default (in the absence of the terms "Pro", "Professional" or "Enterprise").

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