Microsoft plans to launch Windows 10 on July 29th… although not everyone who’s signed up for the free update will get Windows 10 on the first day it’s available. Microsoft is doing a phased rollout.
Anyway, with the next major version of Windows launching in just a few weeks, you might be a bit surprised to note that the company rolled out three different preview builds of Windows 10 to members of the Windows Insider beta testing community last week and that the company hasn’t yet launched the RTM (Release To Manufacturing) build of the operating system.
But it’s on the way. In fact, it could launch this week.
It’s worth noting that the RTM isn’t the final release… Microsoft has been shifting its strategy for software updates and has been positioning Windows 10 as the first Windows-as-a-service release. That means we can expect regular updates throughout the operating system’s life span. Some updates will fix bugs and offer security improvements, much like the Windows updates we’re used to seeing. Others will bring new features.
In other words, Windows 10 will roll out updates much the way web browsers like Chrome or Firefox do.
Still, the company needs to provide PC makers something a little more stable than the test builds that had been rolling out to members of the Insider Program. That’s where the RTM version comes in.
In the past Microsoft had typically pushed out an RTM build a few months ahead of the general availability of a new desktop operating system. This gives PC makers time to test their hardware with the operating system and load up the software on computers that’ll be ready to ship with the latest version of Windows.
This time the RTM build is expected to come just a few weeks ahead of the public launch of Windows 10. But Microsoft has been offering test builds of Windows 10 for almost a year.
That’s given PC makers plenty of time to test the core operating system and make sure their hardware is compatible. In fact, Microsoft designed Windows 10 should run on pretty much any computer that can run Windows 7 or later (and probably on plenty of systems that originally shipped with Windows XP as well)… so some PC makers simply designed their 2015 model laptop and desktop computers to ship with Windows 8.1, knowing that they’d be able to support Windows 10 when it becomes available.
Microsoft did pack some new features into Windows 10 including the Cortana voice-activated personal assistant software and the Continuum experience which automatically changes the user interface of a 2-in-1 device from tablet mode to notebook mode depending on whether a keyboard is attached. But while Toshiba decided to go all-out and add a Cortana button to the keyboard of its latest computers, you can use Cortana on pretty much any computer with a microphone. And there are already plenty of 2-in-1 tablets/notebook hybrids that ship with Windows 8.1. They’ll just work better with Windows 10.
Does that mean we won’t see more new devices from PC makers designed to run Windows 10 in the future? Of course not. But right now anything that ships with Windows 8.1 can also run Windows 10 — whether you upgrade the OS yourself or wait for a PC maker to pre-load the operating system for you.
Paul Thurrott spoke with Dell about their Windows 10 launch plans and notes that the company will ship about 10 computers with Windows 10 software at launch, but Dell will add more models in the coming months.
That means some of the Dell computers you buy this summer ahead of the back-to-school season will feature Windows 10. But if you want to buy a Windows 8.1 model instead, you can always take advantage of Microsoft’s free upgrade offer and install Windows 10 yourself. That promotion for free upgrades is good for the first year after Windows 10 launches, which means you’ve got up to 12 months to decide whether to upgrade.