On July 29 – in just over two weeks’ time – Microsoft will begin the formal roll-out of Windows 10, the new edition of the Windows operating system for PCs and tablets (and Windows phones). It’s been the subject of a comprehensive beta-testing programme by around five million people since the programme was launched at the end of September 2014.
I’ve been part of this programme as a Windows Insider since last October, running the incremental builds of ‘Windows 10 Insider Preview’ as they become available on a couple of different computers, and providing feedback. It’s been a stimulating and most interesting experience so far; a few comments on that in a minute.
So starting on July 29, if your PC currently runs Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 you will be able to get Windows 10 at no cost by taking advantage of Microsoft’s free upgrade offer. If you’ve recently purchased a new PC running Windows 8.1, the Windows 10 upgrade should also be available to you at no cost and many retail stores may upgrade your new device for you.
Windows 10 is a huge deployment – Microsoft is rolling it out in 190 countries and in 111 languages. According to Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s man in charge of Windows 10, the launch will happen in waves starting with the Windows Insiders:
Starting on July 29, we will start rolling out Windows 10 to our Windows Insiders. From there, we will start notifying reserved systems in waves, slowly scaling up after July 29th. Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users. Soon, we will give a build of Windows 10 to our OEM partners so they can start imaging new devices with Windows 10. Soon after, we will distribute a build of Windows 10 to retailers all over the world, so they can assist their customers with upgrades of newly purchased devices that were originally imaged with Windows 8.1.
Now, here’s where things differ from every release of Windows that’s happened before.
In a presentation at the 2015 Microsoft Build developers conference in April, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke a bit about Windows 10, including these comments that provide some clear indicators on this version of Windows, its development, its release and its support that are quite different to what has gone before:
Windows 10 is not just another release of Windows, it’s a new generation of Windows. It is a very different Windows in terms of how we deliver it. It’s a service.
WaaS – Windows as a service. Not an attractive-sounding moniker but maybe something to get used to when you look at the global roll-out starting in a few weeks.
At the same event, Myserson said:
Our goal is that within two to three years of Windows 10’s release there will be 1 billion devices running Windows 10.
Those devices are not only the usual suspects (PCs, tablets, Windows phones) but also Xbox One, Surface Hub, HoloLens, bank ATMs, medical devices, and more.
With ambition at such scale, there’s no way you could sustain the physical manufacturing and distribution models of the past century. And something else to think about – how to persuade everyone on Windows 7 to move up to Windows 10.
Free will help. But it will need a lot more than just that. I think word of mouth will help. Think of five million Windows Insiders and their opinions.
Looking at how previous versions of Windows have been produced and distributed, at end-user pricing that produced significant revenue over the years, Microsoft has been a discrete manufacturer where the product (mass-produced DVDs containing software, plus the packaging, etc) is manufactured and distributed through a supply chain to points of consumer sale – physical retailers, online shops, etc.
Now it’s about giving the software away at zero financial cost to consumers, wholly digital distribution, online support, online updating… these are the foundations for a new Windows ecosystem that will also offer developers an environment that’s eminently attractive, plus outlets in the shape of Windows Stores that will offer software created by those developers that work on any device Windows 10 runs on, making it easy for consumers to find (and pay) for the Windows 10 apps they want.
A familiar set-up if you think of how Apple and Google operate in their respective iOS and Android spaces.
In fact, that’s the landscape now – always-on devices, always connected online, able to automatically receive updates and new software on demand from online stores via a network connection typically wifi or cellular no matter where you are in the world.
Circling back to Windows 10 and my experiences with pre-release builds as a Windows Insider, my overall impression with the latest build I’m running (10166) is of a product that is exceedingly polished for a beta as I’d expect in a close-to-release version. I have it installed on a separate drive in a long-in-the-tooth Dell XPS desktop machine running Windows 7 SP1 with a 28-inch non-touch monitor; and as an upgrade to Windows 8.1 in a Fujitsu Stylistic Q704, one of the latest examples of an ultrabook with not only a touch screen but also the transformational aspect of separating the screen from a dock or keyboard to become a tablet.
In both cases, Windows 10 works out of the digital box, as it were – while early builds were understandably flaky at times (occasional system crashes, some native Windows 10 programs not working properly or at all), the last four builds in recent months have been almost flawless.
The Fujitsu machine in particular works exceptionally well, as if Windows 10 were designed precisely for a device like this (er…). It beats Windows 8.1 hands down in usability, intuitiveness, confidence and reliability. (I see Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 as you’d see Windows Vista to Windows 7.) And the venerable Dell works equally well running Windows 10.
None of my software that works on Windows 7 and upwards – and I have a lot of software – crashed or didn’t run on either device running Windows 10. Updating the operating system is transparent, behind the scenes and works.
In my book, all that makes Windows 10 an easy decision.
- See also: The Hobson and Holtz Report podcast episode 815 – Shel and I discussed Windows 10 and the challenges confronting Microsoft in their global rollout.