Microsoft Aims High With Free Windows 10 Upgrade

The software giant plans to bring its accelerated, cloud-inspired software update cadence to consumer and business users of the upcoming operating system.

Windows 10

Microsoft on Jan. 21 gave the public its most comprehensive look to date at its ambitious plans for Windows 10.

The operating system will power a wide assortment of devices, ranging from an 84-inch, interactive 4K conference room display called the Surface Hub to the company's HoloLens virtual/augmented reality headset. It's a lofty aim, but users' first brush with the operating system will likely be on PCs, tablets, large-screen smartphones (phablets) and the Xbox One.

First and foremost, the upgrade to Windows 10 will be free for many current Windows users, announced Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group. "We announced that a free upgrade for Windows 10 will be made available to customers running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 who upgrade in the first year after launch," he stated in a Jan. 21 blog post.

And Windows 10 may be the last OS upgrade users will ever need.

Going forward, the Redmond, Wash.-based software maker will be taking a cloudlike approach to Windows OS updates that Microsoft describes as "Windows as a Service," said Myerson. "This is more than a one-time upgrade: once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device—at no cost."

Myerson added that with the newest version of Windows, "the experience will evolve and get even better over time. We'll deliver new features when they're ready, not waiting for the next major release."

Primed for Business

Businesses, meanwhile, can expect Microsoft to support their current environments, but change is in the air.

"With Windows 10, a best practice we recommend for many enterprise devices is to connect to Windows Update and be kept up-to-date with the latest security and productivity improvements as soon as they are available," said Myerson.

In a separate blog post, Microsoft General Manager Jim Alkove said business customers can adopt a pace that best matches the "speed of innovation" of each of their user groups.

"Business customers will be able to opt-in to the fast-moving consumer update pace, or lock-down mission critical environments to receive only security and critical updates to their systems," stated Alkove. "And businesses will have an additional option for systems that aren't mission critical, but need to keep pace with the latest innovations while having the benefit to install updates after they have been tested in the broad market."

Productivity-Boosting Features and Apps

Microsoft is also banking on Cortana, the company's voice-enabled digital assistant, to help drive workplace productivity. "I'm a big fan of Cortana and I'm excited that soon people will also be able to use it to get things done on their PCs. I'm looking forward to posting more later on the specifics around what it would look like to have Cortana available in a business setting," Alkove teased.

All eyes may have been on the new "Project Spartan" Web browser on Jan. 21, but businesses can rest assured that Internet Explorer lives on. "Windows 10 also includes an improved version of Internet Explorer that's great for large organizations. It's more secure than ever, always up-to-date for modern sites, with Enterprise Mode compatibility for existing web apps," he said.

Finally, new Office apps for Windows 10 are on the way. In addition to new "touch-first" controls and inking support, Alkove said that the "next version of the Office desktop suite is also currently in development and we'll have more to share in the coming months."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...