The state of Windows 10 as it currently stands is a technical preview that is somewhat amorphous as Microsoft Corp. issues new updates and fixes to the current build. The difference is that this time around, that might not change even after the retail version of the OS is released.

That is the nature of a technical preview that is being put to the test only by a community that has real concerns over how the operating system will work – Microsoft partners and developers for example. They’ll tolerate a bit of instability and bugginess. The consumer preview of Windows is expected by many observes to be coming out in January. Even if its months later than that, Windows 10 is on track to be released before the end of 2015. Just consider the timeline of events for Windows 8.

I was there at Microsoft Build when Windows 8 Developer Preview was released Sept. 13, 2011 – we even to demo the OS on Surface tablets. The consumer preview of the OS was released Feb. 29, 2012 and the release to manufacturing for the finished version of the product was released Aug. 1, 2012. So if we see a consumer preview for Windows 10 early in the New Year, its possible we’ll be installing the new OS by summer. Also, Microsoft has historically released a major release for Windows every three years, and 2015 will mark three years after the release of Windows 8.

With Windows 8’s install base lagging, Microsoft will be motivated to stick to its timeline with the release of Windows 10. While the platform isn’t quite at the level of train wreck as Windows Vista was in the eyes of the user community, the modern UI was jarring for many. Windows XP, a platform Microsoft no longer offers updates or support for, still sees a wider install base than Windows 8. The touchscreen hybrid devices that are part tablet and part notebook that were supposed to fuel growth of Windows 8 are yet to be widely embraced. (Although Microsoft may finally be making headway with the third generation of its Surface tablet, with results from the last quarter showing sales nearing the $1 billion mark.)

Some have speculated that Microsoft will be so eager to drive adoption of Windows 10 that it will release the OS for free. That is some pretty starry-eyed speculation, and you can bet that Microsoft is going to want to make some money on the new release of one of its biggest product categories. However, its likely that a small subset of users that are buying Windows 8 in 2015 will be given a free upgrade to Windows 10 by Microsoft as a strategy to avoid deterring the sale of new PCs leading up to the big release.

What will be free are updates to the Windows 10 platform – for a period much longer than three years. Signs point to Microsoft using Windows 10 as an evolving eternal platform across all devices from laptops, tablets, smartphones, to the Internet of Things. While it can’t deliver its OS in the same cloud style as Office 365, it can offer similar subscription style pricing for it and issue users licences to use it across all their devices for a period of time. Users will be pushed updates automatically – something done for years with the Windows Update feature – and not have to fret about installing major point-release upgrades as they have with previous Windows cycles.


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