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UPDATE: Windows 10 Availability Set for July 29

Windows 10 will be available on July 29, Microsoft announced Monday, giving partners a little less than two months to get ready for a massively disruptive change to Microsoft's client operating system business model.

The release is on the early side of industry expectations that the OS would arrive in the second half of calendar year 2015. Unconfirmed reports over the last few weeks had been pointing to a July release. The timing means Microsoft will succeed in having a buzz-heavy OS in the market in time for the critical back-to-school season.

The most significant change in Windows 10 is that the upgrade will be free for most users in the year after release and that they will be able to continue upgrading to the latest version of the OS so long as their device is supported. (For a good overview of the caveats and open questions around what free means, see Kurt Mackie's recent piece.)

Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Microsoft Operating System Group, unveiled the availability date on Monday in a blog entry titled, "Hello World: Windows 10 Available on July 29," which was a play on both the traditional "Hello World" phrase common for new computer programs and on the "Windows Hello" features in version 10.

Myerson left the actual announcement to Cortana, the digital assistant who made her debut on Windows Phone 8.1 and will be coming to all devices running Windows in version 10. "Windows 10 will be available on July 29, but you can reserve a copy now. Can't wait to be on your PC," a Cortana recording embedded in Myerson's blog post said. Myerson also invited Windows Phone and Windows 10 PC preview users to ask Cortana themselves, although the experience was still buggy. A test on a Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana brought back a Bing search result, rather than the spoken answer provided in the blog's sound clip.

The July 29 release will only include PCs and tablets. Myerson gave no details on when Windows 10 would be available for Windows Phone or other form factors, such as the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality goggles that Microsoft is preparing to ship.

In addition to free upgrades, Cortana and Windows Hello, Myerson's blog emphasized several areas of improvement coming in Windows 10, such as the full return of the Start menu, quicker startup and resume, Windows Defender, the new Microsoft Edge browser and Office on Windows.

For partners, the radical change in licensing of Windows upgrades is sure to have unpredictable consequences, especially for licensing solution providers, original equipment manufacturers and distributors. (For more, see "10 Ways Windows 10 Will Affect Microsoft Partners" and "Microsoft Throws Hardware Roadmap for Loop with Windows 10 as a Service.")

Microsoft has offered some traditional resources for partners that highlight new selling opportunities tied to the new operating system features. General Manager of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group Gavriella Schuster highlighted a number of marketing decks, training videos and other partner resources in a March blog post.

Given the timing of the release, Windows 10 partner readiness is guaranteed to be a top focus at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) on July 12-16 in Orlando, Fla.

Update (6/2): Later on Monday, Corporate Vice President of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group Phil Sorgen followed up with a partner-specific post about Windows 10, outlining new resources such as expanded training tools, materials for Windows 10 Technical Preview campaigns and a Windows 10 pre-RTM proof of concept module.

Sorgen's post on his Channel Chief blog acknowledged the scope of the business shift represented by Windows 10: "As I've said in previous posts, times of change can spark the best in our progress and creativity. We think Windows 10 holds a vast opportunity to reinvent productivity and inspire new ways to develop and delight customers."

The bulk of his message focused on concrete opportunities. "By taking license costs out of the equation," Sorgen argued, the Windows 10 free upgrade offer should fuel business segment interest in Windows 10. Sorgen then made the familiar case for partners to move up the solution stack.

He said Windows 10 will enable partners to "[deliver] the traditional set of migration-related projects easier and therefore faster," "deliver a variety of ongoing, higher value services," "secure new universal LOB application projects" and "provision Office 365 and Azure cloud services to your customers."

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 01, 2015