Windows 10 will be released as a free update on 29 July 2016, Microsoft has announced.
It will be the last major release of the 29-year-old operating system before Microsoft switches to a “Windows as a service” system, which entails updates being rolled out when ready.
This marks a change in Microsoft’s business model. The operating system will be offered as a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 within the first year.
Each version of Windows has cost upwards of £100, although the majority of Windows users receive new versions of the operating system when buying a new computer, and not by upgrading the software themselves.
Microsoft made Windows 8.1, which restored the Start menu, as a free update to Windows 8. Windows 10 will bring back more familiar elements from Windows 7 and combine them with the modern look of Windows 8.1.
More than 4 million people have been beta testing the public preview of Windows 10 for the past couple of months, helping Microsoft fix problems before release. Recent reports indicate that Windows 10 is far from ready, with multiple bugs and glitches yet to be fixed.
Setting a date for release could help accelerate the development cycle, but it is crucial that Microsoft’s first public outing for Windows 10 is solid to avoid comparisons with bug-riddled Windows Vista from 2006.
Microsoft’s long-derided Internet Explorer will be replaced by Edge on Windows 10, while the operating system promises to unify the Windows ecosystem of apps and services across desktop, laptop and tablet PCs as well as smartphones.
Microsoft’s voice-controlled digital assistant, Cortana, will also make its debut beyond smartphones with Windows 10, rivalling Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now. Microsoft recently announced that Cortana would also be made available for the iPhone and Android devices.
The Redmond-based software company needs Windows 10 to be a hit both with consumers and businesses after difficulties in persuading organisations to upgrade from the 14-year-old Windows XP.
Despite Windows XP being more than a year out of support, making computers vulnerable to attack by hackers, many thousands of computers are still running it in the UK, including 2,600 PCs used by NHS Scotland.