Windows 10 is the touch-enabled Windows that users have been waiting for, fixing many of the gripes with Windows 8 and offering a better experience on modern hardware. Despite a few rough edges, Windows 10 looks like being a hit, especially as it is a free upgrade for the first year.
Touch-enabled user interface feels natural, brings back familiar start menu, relatively modest hardware requirements
Updates effectively mandatory, still a few kinks to be ironed out, removes some apps during upgrade
Free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users for one year
Processor: 1GHz or faster
Memory: 1GB for 32-bit version, 2GB for 64-bit version
Disk space required: 16GB for 32-bit version, 20GB for 64-bit version
Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
Display: Minimum resolution of 1024x600
For free upgrade, users must be running a valid copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1
Windows 10 will be be one of the most important updates ever for Microsoft's platform, as the firm looks to deliver an operating system that can compete against the appeal of new devices like tablets, while still supporting the back catalogue of key productivity applications that Windows has accumulated over time.
In fact, Microsoft's task has been to correct the misfire it had with Windows 8, which introduced a user interface optimised for touch-screen devices, but proved to be such a huge change from previous versions of Windows that Microsoft ended up alienating many veteran users of Windows.
Microsoft is keen to get Windows 10 being used by as many people as possible in a relatively short space of time. For this reason, the firm is offering it as a free upgrade for the first year of availability, on systems that are currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 with a valid licence.
People who qualify for a free upgrade should already have the Get Windows 10 app showing in the notification area on their desktop if they have been keeping their system current with the latest Windows Updates. This app allows users to reserve a copy.
The official launch date for Windows 10 is 29 July, but not everyone will be able to get their hands on it right away. Starting from this date, Microsoft will start rolling out Windows 10 to its Windows Insider community which has already been running preview builds of the software.
Microsoft will then begin notifying those who have opted to reserve a copy of Windows 10 that it is available. System vendors are also aiming to have Windows 10 pre-installed on new systems as soon after the launch date as possible, but buyers will need to check before purchasing.
Windows 10 will be available in retail and online following the launch for those who do not qualify for a free upgrade or are building a new PC from scratch. Microsoft has confirmed to V3 that Windows 10 will cost the same as Windows 8.1 does currently, which should mean £99.99 for Windows 10 Home and £189.99 for Windows 10 Pro.
Windows 10 can be viewed as an attempt by Microsoft to combine the best of the old and the new. The OS has kept many of the architectural updates introduced in Windows 8, such as faster file transfers, and most of the significant changes come in the user interface.
Microsoft has reintroduced the desktop, Start button and Start menu that Windows users had grown used to over many previous versions of the operating system. This alone will reassure many professionals and others who were put off by the grid of tiles that formed the home screen in Windows 8.
However, the live tiles of Windows 8 have not gone away, but are now smaller and displayed on the Start menu, alongside a list of your most commonly accessed applications. Tapping ‘All Apps' displays an alphabetical list of every installed application.
The apps behind those live tiles, such as News, Sports, Travel and Finance, are also still present, but these now open in resizable windows (see below) with the familiar minimise and close buttons, instead of running full-screen only.
This means that Windows 10 still supports two kinds of applications: traditional Win32 apps and the newer Windows Store apps built using web technologies. The latter have now morphed into what Microsoft calls Universal Apps, because they will also run on non-PC devices such as phones with Windows 10 Mobile coming later this year.
But with both types of app now running in resizable windows, the difference between the two has become blurred in Windows 10, especially as newer Win32 applications from Microsoft (such as the Office 2016 preview apps) adopt a similar minimalist look and feel.
In fact, this look and feel extends to the rest of Windows 10 itself, which looks very slick and polished and modern, in contrast to Windows 8, which looked decidedly retro thanks to its blocky tiles and use of flat expanses of colour.