Microsoft just announced when Windows 10, the first major operating system release since Windows 8, will be available for download. And you can already find all of the information you need to decide whether you’re going to download the next major version of Microsoft’s operating system.
In a post on the Windows Blog, Terry Myerson, the executive vice president of Microsoft’s Operating Systems group, announced that Windows 10 will be available to download on July 29. “Through the feedback and testing of over four million Windows Insiders,” Myerson wrote, “we’ve made great progress on Windows 10 and we’re nearly ready to deliver this free upgrade to all of our Windows customers.” The operating system’s initial release will be for PCs and tablets, though Myerson notes that Windows 10 is designed “to run our broadest device family ever, including Windows PCs, Windows tablets, Windows phones, Windows for the Internet of Things, Microsoft Surface Hub, Xbox One and Microsoft HoloLens—all working together to empower you to do great things.”
As Nick Wingfield reports for The New York Times, the release of a new operating system represents a major milestone for Microsoft since its potential reach is huge. Approximately 1.5 billion people use Windows everyday, and many of them will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. Many others, including some with aging machines that need to be replaced, will buy new devices that run Windows 10 out of the box. Both groups of consumers are crucial to Microsoft, as PC sales have been slow thanks both to the rise of smartphones and tablets and to the damage done by the poorly-received Windows 8 operating system. So are you planning on running Windows 10 when the final build is released?
What do you gain with Windows 10?
Unless you have a specific and compelling reason not to upgrade, you should plan on downloading Windows 10. And for the average user, the question shouldn’t be whether you’re going to update to Windows 10, but when. TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm expresses doubt about the short runway before Windows 10’s July 29 release date, projecting that it “won’t give Microsoft enough time to kill all the bugs.” Microsoft has built the operating system in the public view, quickly shipping builds and adding fixes in response to feedback, but the operating system “remains distinctly not done” at this point (late) in the game.
Whether you choose to upgrade the day that Microsoft makes Windows 10 available, perhaps by signing up to do so via Microsoft’s reservation process, or opt to wait a bit longer to make sure that any major bugs have been squashed, there’s a pretty good reason why you should download Windows 10, and it has a lot to do with how Microsoft will handle updates to the operating system in the future. Myerson explained on the Windows blog in January:
This is more than a one-time upgrade: once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device – at no cost. With Windows 10, the experience will evolve and get even better over time. We’ll deliver new features when they’re ready, not waiting for the next major release. We think of Windows as a Service – in fact, one could reasonably think of Windows in the next couple of years as one of the largest Internet services on the planet.
In addition to opening a new era for the way Windows is built and deployed, Windows 10 has some other benefits. The operating system combines new and old technology, reviving the familiar Start Menu that was hidden in Windows 8 but adding Cortana, the virtual assistant that occupies a central place on Windows Phones. As on those smartphones, Cortana on PC will enable users to perform tasks with voice commands, but it will also act proactively to help out.
What do you lose with Windows 10?
Windows 10 does come with a few losses. The Verge’s James Vincent reports that software losses will include the Windows Media Center, the card game Hearts, and Windows 7’s desktop gadgets. Anyone who still uses floppy disks will need to install new drivers, DVDs will require “separate playback software.” And limitations will apply to exciting features like Cortana, which will be available on in in the United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain at launch.
With Windows 10, Microsoft is also changing how updates work, taking away some of the control that users currently have over Windows. While users of the Pro and Enterprise editions will be able to defer updates, Home users won’t have that option. Updates will, instead, be automatically downloaded and installed as they become available.
CNET’s Lance Whitney characterizes the development as a “step backward” since with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, users can choose how they want updates installed. And while some updates are critical and really should be installed automatically, users who have been burned before point out that Microsoft periodically releases buggy updates that really shouldn’t be installed before Microsoft fixes them.
Windows 10 will be available as a free download in the first year after its release to PC and tablet users currently running Windows 7 and Windows 8. Anyone who doesn’t qualify for the free upgrade will be able to purchase Windows 10, and CNET’s Nick Statt learned that Microsoft is pricing Windows 10 licenses at $119 for Home and $199 for Pro. For users who want to upgrade from the Home edition to the Pro edition, the Windows 10 Pro Pack will cost $99. Licenses will be useful for users who don’t have or want to purchase an eligible machine, or those who will build their own computers.
Windows Hello, which supports various biometric authentication methods, will need an infrared camera for facial recognition or a supported fingerprint reader. Similarly, Windows 10 won’t run on any machine, though PCs and tablets need to pass a relatively low bar, including a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a display resolution of at least 1024 x 600.