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Windows 10 Will Be Free for Some Windows, Windows Phone Users

The Windows 10 operating system will be a free upgrade for users of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft announced on Wednesday.

Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president of Operating Systems, made the announcement during an event at the company's Redmond, Wash., campus to showcase Windows 10's consumer-focused capabilities.

Terry Myerson onstage at the Jan. 21 event to showcase Windows 10. (Source: Microsoft.)

The upgrade offer will be available only during the first year after Windows 10's launch. Microsoft has not said precisely when Windows 10 will hit the market, but officials have suggested it will appear in the latter part of this year.

Update: Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer comes with fine print that is actually hard to spot. It's located at the bottom of this page and it indicates that the Enterprise editions of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, as well as the Windows RT OS, are excluded from the offer. Possibly, the deal isn't extended to organizations. Here is that fine print, which is worth a read:

It is our intent that most of these devices will qualify, but some hardware/software requirements apply and feature availability may vary by device. Devices must be connected to the internet and have Windows Update enabled. ISP fees may apply. Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 Update required. Some editions are excluded: Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1. Active Software Assurance customers in volume licensing have the benefit to upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise outside of this offer. We will be sharing more information and additional offer terms in coming months.

Users who upgrade to Windows 10 will get future updates at no additional charge throughout the lifetime of their devices. Microsoft plans to release these updates "when they're ready," suggesting that it is moving away from its traditional Windows release cycle of once every three years.

Company officials are now describing Windows 10 as "a service," and they are suggesting that Windows 10 will be "one of the largest Internet services on the planet." As such, concerns with versions will become less important for end users, and Microsoft is suggesting that a service-enabled Windows 10 will ease matters for software developers.

Developers of so-called "universal apps," based on Windows 10, will be able to build a single app that works across various Windows devices, such as PCs, tablets, smartphones and Xbox game consoles.

There are some unspecified hardware and software requirements associated with the deal. Apparently, a device just has to have hardware that's capable of running the Windows 10 preview. A Microsoft spokesperson described those specs as follows:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB)
  • Free hard disk space: 16 GB
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
  • A Microsoft account and Internet access

Windows 10 is currently available at the preview stage, but Microsoft said it plans to issue another technical preview build next week, with plans to make it available in 25 more languages.

Microsoft is also building Windows 10 for use on smartphone devices, replacing Microsoft's Windows Phone OS. While a public preview of Windows 10 for smartphones hasn't been available to date, Microsoft said it plans to release its first technical preview of the OS for those devices sometime next month.

In addition to the free Windows 10 upgrade news, Microsoft announced some new features of the OS to come. For instance, Windows 10 PCs and tablets will get the Cortana personal assistant app, which can respond to voice and typed commands (it previously was just an app for smartphones). Windows 10 also will include a new "Project Spartan" Web browser integrated with Cortana. This Spartan browser features a reading view that makes Web page views more consistent and it also will allow users to annotate those Web page reads with a pen tool. Microsoft showed off that annotation capability during the event.

[Click on image for larger view.] The new Spartan Web browser for Windows 10, as shown at Microsoft's Jan. 21 event. (Source: Microsoft.)

Windows 10 will ship with several built-in apps, including a new Xbox app to enable apps built for Xbox One gaming consoles to stream games to a PC. Other apps to be included in Windows 10 include Mail and Calendar, Maps, Music, People and Messaging, and Photos. Microsoft clarified during the talk that its Outlook mail and calendar apps will be part of Windows 10, so that's apparently what's meant by the Mail and Calendar app.

All of the apps included with Windows 10 can be synchronized through Microsoft's cloud-based OneDrive storage service.

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About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.