Microsoft just announced a release date for Windows 10 on their blog.
Windows 10 is on the horizon, and with it a drastic change to the way people have been thinking about operating systems. Future updates won't require fresh installations, and the wait for the next big version is gone.
The operating system will be available for PCs and tablets starting July 29, both digitally and in stores. If you're running a copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, the upgrade will be completely free during the first year. After that, you'll likely have to pay to upgrade.
While Microsoft announced that pirated copies of Windows were eligible for the free update, they've now retracted that statement and clarified that they will not support illegal copies.
Eligible users are already seeing a "Get Windows 10" popup in their notification tray. Simply click the icon, follow Microsoft's instructions to reserve your upgrade and Windows 10 will automatically download on July 29.
What's new in Windows 10?
One operating system to rule them all
Windows 10 may be free, but it's definitely not cheap. It's the largest update to the operating system yet. Windows 10 will be a single operating system that spans all of Microsoft-powered devices - phones and tablets to laptops and desktops to game consoles. While each device will use a variation of Windows 10 better suited for its intended use, Microsoft promises a unified platform where apps and programs use the same code across all devices.
How does this help end-users?
Gone are the days of asking "Are you running XP, Vista, 7 or 8? Which version of that OS are you running?". Every device will automatically update to the latest version. Say goodbye to version incompatibilities and the mind-boggling workarounds needed to fix them.
Say hello to a faster, easier and refined workflow. With unified apps working across all devices, we can imagine an Apple Handoff-like workflow. Microsoft has baked Cortana (Microsoft's voice assistant) into every nook and cranny of Windows 10.
It's a better gaming platform - the unified code allows PC gamers to interact directly with friends on Xbox Live. Windows 10 will allow cross-platform multiplayer. Even local in-home streaming of Xbox One games to a connected PC, and in the future vice-versa.
Goodbye, Internet Explorer!
Internet Explorer has seen a ton of hate in recent years (though the browser has seen huge improvements since Windows 8 - go try it!). Microsoft has finally decided to kill Internet Explorer and release a new browser called Edge.
Edge was built entirely from the ground up, and will be one of the most feature-packed browsers available when it launches. There's a note-taking mode, allowing you to capture images, draw directly on a webpage and collaborate with others by adding notations.
There's also a reading mode, letting you shift through web views as you see fit. You'll also have a curated Reading List that syncs across all your devices. Cortana is a huge part of Edge, aiding with search results, for example. When searching for a cinema, Cortana will automatically bring up any related movie information. Cortana can also be set up in a sidebar, mining through a webpage and providing the most important information in a summary.
There are many more features still being added, and the browser is already very light and zippy. Internet Explorer 11 will still be around for backwards compatibility, and those that are averse to change.
Hello, Start Menu!
The Start Menu is back and it's more glorious than ever. Live Tiles from Windows 8 can be added to the new Start Menu, and every aspect of it can be customized - shrink it down, make it large and tall, even full-screen. Universal search is back, too. You can set up multiple desktops, and mix and match new and "legacy" apps in a wide array of layouts. Snap Assist lets you grab open apps from other desktops, if you ever find yourself switching tasks quickly.
Windows 10 is fully touch-optimized, and will be able to detect when you're on a touch-enabled device. 2-in-1 devices, such as the Microsoft Surface, which have a tablet or laptop mode, will also be supported.
Microsoft recently showed off their Hololens augmented reality headset. The Hololens will of course be powered by a full copy of Windows 10.
Not only will you be able to view holographic objects in their true size, but you can also use it as a full-fledged Windows computer. You can pin applications on your wall, manipulating them with hand gestures - resize them, move them or even drag them with you.
A slew of updates to built-in applications
Many apps were either new or improved in Windows 8, but saw little use because of the poor user experience the Modern interface provided. They're all receiving updates to make them extremely useful, and much easier to use.
This is the final version of Windows
Microsoft has stated that this is the final version of Windows. There won't be a Windows 11. It's future lies in small, incremental updates rather than huge, yearly revisions. Microsoft has killed off "Patch Tuesday" (large Windows patches usually released on Tuesdays), with updates being released as they are ready instead of a designated date. It's still very unlikely that Microsoft will never release a new operating system in the future, however. It's impossible to guess where technology will be just a year from now. Even with constant updates to Windows 10, the OS may not be able to satisfy future devices' needs.