It’s official! After months of speculation Microsoft has announced its Windows 10 software will launch globally on 29 July.
However, the Washington-based firm said Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users will have one year from this date to take advantage of the free upgrade.
And once a device is upgraded to Windows 10, Microsoft said it will continue to keep it up-to-date for the supported lifetime of the device at no cost.
For other Windows users, or people who don’t currently run a version of the firm’s operating system, they will need to pay for the software.
Microsoft said those who want to be among the first in line for the free Windows 10 upgrade can reserve a free copy in the coming weeks.
The new Windows 10 will run on everything from mobile phones to the firm’s Xbox One games console – and for desktop users, will see the return of the start menu.
It also marks the return of the Start Menu, which was removed from Windows 8.
In addition to offering a list of the user’s favourite applications, the menu brings up resizable tiles – similar to those featured in Windows 8’s touch-centric interface – on PCs and tablets.
The current version, Windows 8, has been widely derided for forcing radical behavioural changes.
Microsoft is restoring some of the more traditional ways of doing things and promises that Windows 10 will be familiar for users regardless of which version of Windows they are now using.
For instance, the start menu in Windows 10 will appear similar to what’s found in Windows 7, but tiles opening to the side will resemble what’s found in Windows 8.
Windows 10 would be compatible with both traditional and touch-based device users like tablets through a new task view with buttons scaled up so that they’re more friendly to those on touchscreen devices.
Users on hybrid devices like the Surface Pro tablet will be able to jump between and keyboard and touchscreen modes, with Microsoft demonstrating how the interface will change as you do.
Although the new software won’t be formally released until next year, analysts already consider its success crucial for Microsoft.
The new software represents an attempt to step back from the radical redesign that alienated many PC users when Windows 8 was introduced two years ago.
However, it is not a complete retreat from Microsoft’s goal of bridging the gap between PCs and mobile devices: It still has touch-screen functions and strives to create a familiar experience for Windows users who switch between desktop computers, tablets and smartphones.
Microsoft currently has three main systems – Windows 8 for traditional computers and tablets, Windows Phone 8 for cellphones and Xbox for its gaming console.
By unifying the underlying systems, software developers will be able to create apps for the various devices more easily.
Consumers will also be able to switch devices more easily and avoid having to buy the same apps multiple times.