In about 12 weeks, the nightmare that is Windows 8 will come to a end. It's about time.
If you've been stuck using a PC with the horrible Windows 8, or the slightly less horrible Windows 8.1, it looks like you'll be able to upgrade to Windows 10 at the end of July. And it won't cost you a penny.
Although Microsoft hasn't confirmed it yet, Lisa Su — the CEO of chip maker AMD and a woman who should know exactly what the software giant is up to — spilled the beans on the Windows 10 release date last week during an earnings call with analysts and reporters. The new OS will arrive in late July, Su said.
AMD's CPUs and graphics hardware have to work well with Windows, and the company needs to test them, so it is often kept abreast of Microsoft's product releases. Su certainly has no reason to fib. AMD is somewhat off the radar of most tech and business writers these days, which is why Su's indiscrete remark wasn't reported earlier.
What you get with Windows 10
Microsoft was so eager to put Windows 8 behind it, the company didn't bother to create Windows 9 — it simply jumped ahead to Windows 10, hoping that users would think the OS was that much more distant from its failed ancestor.
Marketing acrobatics aside, it does look like Windows 10 is a huge improvement compared to the last few generations of Windows. Microsoft previewed a number of early versions and let thousands of users try it out, and the reviews have been mostly positive.
Windows 8 and 8.1 have a much different interface than the recognizable look and feel the OS had since Windows 95 debuted 20 years ago, and that frustrated users. Gone was the start menu, with its nested lists of applications and easy access to basic functions. In its place are big tiles representing applications and something called "Charms."
Much of the familiar Windows interface has returned in Windows 10. The image above is a screenshot of the Start Menu, taken from a beta version of Windows 10. On one side you see the Start Menu, on the other the tiles.
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Another big plus: Microsoft finally realized its IE browser had to go; it's simply too old and too overgrown with obsolete code that clung to it like barnacles on a shipwreck. The new Spartan browser promises to be faster and more lightweight.
Then there's Cortana, a voice-command interface that's similar to Apple's Siri. Cortana should eventually allow users to control many PC functions, particularly search. Cortana occupies the Search box to the right of the Windows 10 Start button. Like Siri, Cortana only works when you're connected to the Internet. Early reviews of Cortana have been mixed and there are privacy concerns because user queries go up to the Microsoft cloud and stay there until they're manually deleted.
Applications should work a lot better as well. App interfaces have been redesigned, and they now launch inside resizable windows in the desktop environment so you can manipulate their windows, as you do ordinary desktop applications.
Windows 10 will run on older PCs, and if your machine currently runs Windows 7 or later, you can able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free during the first 12 months after the new OS is released. Historically, Windows upgrades are not fun. Windows 10 could be different, but I wouldn't count on it.