It’s official – Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10 on July 29th, right on schedule, if not a little sooner than most observers had anticipated. We’ve used the Windows 10 Technical Preview extensively, and there’s no doubt that this version of Windows will be the best yet, combining the speed and stability improvements of Windows 8 with the familiar desktop environment of Windows 7 (i.e., the long-lost and much-missed Start Menu is coming back!). It even adds some major improvements to the DirectX graphics API, promising breathtaking enhancements to gaming and virtual reality visuals. Best of all, this will be a free upgrade to all current users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.
Microsoft made the process for obtaining a free upgrade all the more clear with an update it pushed out to Windows users today, June 1st. As you can see here, simply clicking on the new Windows icon in the Taskbar brings you to a dialog box with information on the Windows 10 upgrade.
This will be the first time a Windows upgrade has been free (in the past, Microsoft made new versions available for as low as $40 for a limited time, to spur adoption). There are probably two reasons that Microsoft is making this a free upgrade, passing up on what could have been a significant revenue opportunity. First is the official reason: Microsoft wants to make Windows a service, so that once you buy it, you have get the best of what it has to offer now and in the future. There’s no better way for Microsoft to prove that it means what it says than grandfathering in current Windows users.
But there’s another reason Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 so hard, and it’s not quite as fit for a glossy marketing campaign. In short, Windows 8 was a bust, which we would have predicted at its release (in fact, we provided comments to Microsoft during the beta phase regarding the confusing schism between the Start Screen and Desktop, but of course so did everyone else, to no avail). In fact, according to the data company Net Market Share, Windows 8/8.1 market penetration not only trails Windows 7 as of May 2015 by a whopping 3:1 ratio, it’s barely ahead of Windows XP, released in 2001. Wow.
Microsoft is now relegating the touch interface to second-string in Windows 10, with a proper desktop interface for PC users front and center. Perhaps it jumped the gun on pushing touch controls with the 2012 release of Windows 8, or perhaps the truth is that Microsoft’s core audience is actually interested in getting work done, and for the foreseeable future, that’s going to require a keyboard and mouse.