Everything you need to know about Windows 10The Windows 10 release date is set for mid-2015, with the consumer edition preview now firmly pegged for January 21, and leaked builds showing off Cortana and Xbox functionality for the desktop.
Having eschewed the Windows 9 moniker we were all expecting, Microsoft formally announced Windows 8.1 replacement at the tail end of September. Now, with the Technical Preview having already been showcased, the Windows 10 Consumer Edition is now set for a January 21 reveal.
The operating system upgrade will mark a new generation of Microsoft software, with the Redmond-based firm hoping to unify all of its platforms - PC, tablet, mobile - under one, simple Windows banner.
“Windows 10 will be our most comprehensive platform ever,” Microsoft’s Windows head, Terry Myerson said in unveiling the update.
He added: “We’re delivering one application platform. One store. One way for applications to be discovered, purchased, and updated across all of these devices.”
Although Microsoft has already detailed many new Windows 10 features, much mystery still surrounds certain elements of the update – most notably exactly when the Windows 10 release date will be held.
We will continue to update this page with all the latest Windows 10 release date and download details as new information emerges. Bookmark it now to keep up-to-date on all things Windows 10.
Watch the Windows 10 preview video:
Windows 10 Release DateMicrosoft officially unveiled Windows 10 on September 30, and announced how it would make a Technical Preview available for desktops and laptops as part of the new Windows Insider Program. Sadly, details surrounding a precise Windows 10 release date are still few and far between.
Fortunately, we now know that the consumer preview will be getting its grand unveiling on January 21 at an event called The Next Chapter.
Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc wrote on the Windows blog: "On Wednesday, January 21st - we will be holding an event here on Microsoft's Redmond campus where we will talk about the next chapter of Windows 10."
Tiding us over until the software’s official release, the preview editions are due to run well into the new year. It will be shut down on April 15, leaving us a fortnight shy of Microsoft’s Build 2015 conference – scheduled to run between April 29 and May 1.
Build, held at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco, is Microsoft’s annual developer conference. It regularly offers a targeted look at the company’s upcoming software, hence the 2015 Windows 10 expectations.
The first Build conference took place in September 2011 and saw a heavy focus on Windows 8, as did the 2012 meeting. 2013’s yearly get-together saw the limelight fall onto Windows 8.1, while the focus of this year’s conference shifted on Cortana and Windows Phone 8.1
It’s generally expected that the next Build conference will see Microsoft proffer an exact Windows 10 release date, with Myerson having already confirmed that the software will land ‘later’ in 2015.
Looking back at Microsoft operating system releases, it’s difficult to gauge when the firm might actually launch Windows 10.
Windows 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows XP all landed in October, while Windows 7 came in July 2009. Based on the evidence, an October Windows 10 release is likeliest, although anywhere from Q2 2015 onwards is possible.
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Windows 10 FeaturesWindows 10 is a pretty big overhaul as far as Microsoft releases go. The firm’s execs are looking to completely unify device platforms – no small feat. This means there are heaps of new features in tow, including universal Windows 10 apps, desktop-based Cortana AI and – in response to endless consumer requests – the return of the Start Menu.
Let’s kick off with the beloved Start Menu then. Woe betide those who forget the furore that followed Microsoft’s abandonment of the beloved feature in Windows 8.
The outrage subsided slightly with the addition of a pseudo-Start Menu in Windows 8.1, but it still left many hungering for a full-fledged return to days of Start Menu yore.
Fortunately, Microsoft has revamped the classic Start Menu, albeit with a sprinkling of Windows 8. The new Start Menu returns to its old bottom-left stomping ground, this time with Metro-style live tiles on show. It’s also much wider and, thankfully, resizable, should its new girth not be to your tastes.
For the display-fondlers amongst you, there is also a heavy focus on improved touch integration. Microsoft has promised to evolve its touch UI, guaranteeing us more intuitive features without completely abandoning its current touch flavour.
Cortana for Windows 10
Many fans of the Windows ecosystem were excited to find Cortana showing up in Microsoft’s Technical Preview build. Cortana is a voice-controlled AI that was initially designed for Windows Phone, but now looks set to appear on your desktop through Windows 10.
Cortana for desktop even got its first proper reveal this month, courtesy of WinBeta. Footage from an unreleased Microsoft build showed the Windows Phone-sired AI performing a selection of tasks on her new home, including setting up calendar alerts and using location-based mapping features.
Taking on Siri and Google Now, the clever clogs software is good for the expected raft of AI tasks, including scheduling events, searching the web, and making amusing but awkward small talk – Her-enthusiasts likely disappointed.
The latest reveal shows Cortana sitting above the search bar in the bottom left hand corner, albeit only when called upon.
Another new Windows 10 feature is Task View. This lets users flick between virtual desktops. It launches from the task bar, and offers up the chance to re-arrange running apps. There’s also a swipe-from-the-left option to engage Task View for touch users too.
A big part of Task View is the new Snap Assist feature. Snap Assist builds on the side-snap functionality that shipped with Windows 8. The new system allows for 2 x 2 snapping, vertical snapping, and cross-monitor snapping – a welcome boon for multi-taskers.
For the hardcore Windows user, the command prompt is getting a 21st century kick up the backside with the addition of keyboard shortcuts. No longer will you have to hack out lengthy command lines – just copy to the clipboard and paste away.
There’s also Continuum. Before you ask, no it’s not Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Continuity. In fact, what it does is register how you’re using your Windows device, and then subsequently adapts to your chosen style.
If you’ve got a keyboard or mouse plugged into your Surface Pro 3 then you’ll get a standard click-friendly Windows interface. Unplug all your peripheral kit and the Surface Pro 3 will switch to a more touch-friendly Metro-style interface – how considerate.
Universal apps will also be making an appearance as part of Microsoft’s over-arching unification agenda. Since the (effectively) same Windows 10 will run across all of your Microsoft-powered devices, the big M wants a singular app store to cover all your gadget bases.
This means that when you download, for instance, Skype on your PC, it should be the same effective download for all other platforms, tablet and mobile included.
We also know Microsoft is set to talk about gaming on Windows at its January 21 Windows 10 event, with Xbox head Phil Spencer tweeting: "I'll be focusing more on what we are doing on Win10 in January. It's time for us to talk about gaming on Windows."
What this entails, we're not quite sure, but we do know that the latest build of Windows 10 contains an Xbox app that opens up the entire Xbox ecosystem on your desktop PC.
This app proffers all the expected Xbox goodies, including achievements, friends list, activity feeds, the store, and more.
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Windows 10 PreviewThe Windows Insider Program officially launched on October 1. This has given keen tinkerers and developers a chance to play around with the new Windows 10 software ahead of launch. Microsoft has been regularly releasing Windows 10 preview builds ever since.
Shortly thereafter, on October 7, the company made the developer preview build available for Windows 7 users. Unfortunately there’s still no consumer preview build available, although this is expected in early 2015.
Keeping its timeline tight, on October 13, Microsoft revealed that upwards of one million unique users had already accessed the Windows 10 Technical Preview. There’s also been north of 200,000 feedback comments, with 68 per cent of users testing the system with more than seven apps per day.
The technical preview is due to shut down on April 15 next year, locking out everyone ahead of a general release, but it’s not too late to get involved.
For those who can't wait for the full release, next month could see an early edition teased. We recently heard that Microsoft would be lifting the lid on its Consumer Preview in late January, at an event entirely separate from CES.
The Verge attributed the rumour to sources 'familiar with the matter', and suggested the event would provide a detailed look at the consumer side of Windows 10.
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Windows 10 DownloadWhile you can’t download Windows 10 proper just yet, Microsoft has made its Windows 10 Technical Preview available.
The Technical Preview isn’t the final product, of course, and sees regular updates, or ‘builds’, pushed out by Microsoft, adding new features, fixing bugs, and responding to tester feedback.
Any willing individual can sign up to Microsoft’s Windows Insider Program and gain access to the Technical Preview, although it’s largely recommended for those who are keen to actually provide feedback on the software to Microsoft.
It’s also not for the tech non-savvy, with Microsoft recommending knowledge of .ISO files and UEFI BIOS before getting involved. There’s an FAQ available as a helping hand to those willing to give it a go, however.
There could also be bugs and issues with the build, and so it’s potentially worth not making the Technical Preview your main OS.
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Windows 10 PriceMicrosoft has stayed hush on the Windows 10 price thus far, so we can’t say for sure how the firm will approach its retail strategy.
The latest rumours point to Microsoft moving away from a one-time purchase model, instead opting for a subscription-based format.
When asked whether Microsoft was setting up to lose money on Windows, the firm's COO Kevin Turner said: "We've got to monetise it differently. And there are services involved. There are additional opportunieis for us to bring additional services to the product and do it in a creative way."
He added: "And through the course of the summer and spring we'll be announcing what that business model looks like."
Microsoft is keeping expectedly hush on the Windows 10 price for now though, but the firm is no stranger to subscription models (read: Office 365) so it could be a possibility - perhaps some kind of tie-in with Office could be in the works.
That being said, there’s plenty of chatter on the web that suggests Microsoft will push its next OS onto your systems free of charge.
Michael Silver, a tech analyst at Gartner, said: “If Microsoft wants consumers to update and keep up to date, it really means that Microsoft is going to have to give those consumers those updates for free. There’s really no other way to do it.”
He added: “A consumer isn’t going to give Microsoft a credit card and say, ‘Charge me for a new release whenever one comes out.'”
It’s not a bad shout – Apple started released its own OS X upgrades for free back with OS X Mavericks. At the time, the firm’s VP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, saying Apple wanted to ‘begin a new era of personal computing software where OS upgrades are free.’ Your move, Microsoft.
We’ve also heard rumours from WZOR that the base Windows 10 operating system would retail at no cost, while extra features would be lumped in as part of a paid subscription package.
There’s also been talk that Windows 10 might be free for anyone running Windows 8 who wants to upgrade.
It’s worth mentioning that the Windows 10 upgrade is very likely to be free on Windows-powered smartphones, too. The new unification model could mean the lack of price tag carries across to your desktop as well.
Unfortunately we won’t know for certain until Microsoft tells all – we’re expecting the reveal at next year’s Build conference.
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