As announced earlier in the year, on July 29, 2015, Microsoft will begin distributing Windows 10 for free to individuals and businesses that have requested a copy and met the perquisite requirements. The company's stated goal of having one billion devices running the new operating system within three years creates what can legitimately be described as a logistical nightmare. Microsoft says it has a plan of action for the Windows 10 rollout, although the details are a bit vague.
At your service
To refresh everyone's memory, the reason Windows 10 is a big deal is that, for the first time, Microsoft Windows will be delivered as a service. So, if you're updating your installation of Windows 7 or Windows 8, you have essentially purchased your last Windows operating system. That is, if you update within the next year (Figure A).
You can upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8 devices to Windows 10 for free.
The Microsoft plan is to continuously update Windows 10 with new features and new technologies as they become available. There will be no more Start Me Up commercials to get consumers to buy and upgrade to the latest version of Windows, because the latest version of Windows will automatically be installed on their devices.
According to Microsoft, compatibility testing shows that most devices currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8 will be able to update to Windows 10 with little problems for the user. If you reserved a copy of Windows by clicking on the icon in the Systems Tray, then you're all set. Windows 10 will be delivered to you on July 29 or soon after as a Windows update (Figure B).
Windows 10 reservation confirmation.
Of course, this is where the logistical problem comes in. Sending Windows 10 to the millions of computers and devices on the reserved list all at the same time would slow the entire process to a crawl. That's not the kind of user experience Microsoft is looking for.
The first to receive Windows 10 will be the 5 million Windows Insiders. Those are the people and companies that agreed to beta test Windows 10 over the past few months. Windows Insiders provided feedback that helped Microsoft fine tune Windows 10 for its release, so getting the final version first is their reward.
After that, Windows 10 will be rolled out in waves to the remaining millions of businesses and users who reserved a copy. It is the "waves" part that has me concerned. How long between waves? Are we talking hours, days, weeks? Microsoft is non-committal, saying:
"Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn, and update the experience for all Windows 10 users."
Excited but wary
As a Windows Insider, I have updated one of my PCs to beta version of Windows 10. The process took longer than a typical Windows update and involved a few restarts, but it worked just fine. I suspect most individuals and business will have the same successful, moderately painless, result.
However, in a roll out of this magnitude, there are bound to be unforeseen problems. We can expect to see reports detailing major failures during deployment. The bad publicity directed at Microsoft will likely be brutal.
For example, I predict some business somewhere will claim to have lost millions of dollars in a botched update to Windows 10. Or some grandmother will be widely quoted on the evening news as saying she lost the photos of her grandchildren because Microsoft screwed up her computer.
The shift is on
After the dust settles, July 29, 2015, is likely to become an important date in the history of the personal computer. From that point on, from Microsoft's perspective, the operating system is no longer the focal point of the PC. It will then be all about the ecosystem and the applications and services each ecosystem provides.
For Microsoft, this means mobile and cloud applications and services will be the focus. For businesses, the focus will be on Office 365 and Azure. For the consumer, the focus will be on the browser and apps that run on any device. Sure Windows 10 will be the glue that holds it all together, but Windows 10 won't be what Microsoft is selling.
After July 29, 2015, Microsoft is selling the Microsoft experience, whatever that entails. Of course, whether that translates into success and profitability remains to be seen.
Have you reserved an update to Windows 10? Are you comfortable with the idea that Windows will now be a service? Do you think it's likely that Microsoft may one day charge everyone for what is currently a free Windows 10 service? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
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Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.