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It's FREE WINDOWS 10 time: 29 July is D-Day, yells Microsoft

12 months of free downloads barely WEEKS away

Windows 10 will be coughed up by Microsoft on July 29, the company said on Monday morning – and Windows 7 and 8.1 users can reserve their free upgrade right now.

Gratis upgrades to Windows 10 are pegged to last for 12 months, as previously announced by Microsoft. That gives you until the end of July 2016 to claim them.

Also, on July 29, Windows 10 will be available on new Windows 10 devices, the company said.

The announcement lays to rest speculative rumours that had settled on the date being July 31, based on pricing information for OEM editions leaked by online retailer Newegg over the weekend.

Windows 10 also sees the launch of Microsoft's new browser, Edge – previously codenamed Spartan. Edge is a break with standards-hobbled Internet Explorer and uses native HTML rendering. There’s also Cortana integration and Edge works with digital ink for note taking.

Earlier, AMD president Lisa Su had let slip that Windows 10’s launch would take place in “late” July.

If downloads and devices are to be ready for delivery into the hands of the masses on July 29 then it’s a substantial advance over previous editions of Windows. In the past, new versions of Windows have been released to PC makers on dates in either July or August, with general availability on PCs and as a download in October.

The logic has been to target shoppers buying PCs in preparation for the end-of-year Christmas and Thanksgiving periods.

That two-three month gap was to let the channel fill up with enough inventory and for both Microsoft and partners to begin the marketing and PR assault. Microsoft had offset this with deals to those who paid early to receive product later.

All eyes will be on just how the arrival of this new version of Windows translates – or doesn’t – into new PCs and devices sold.

Windows 10 marks the return of the Start menu, banished from Windows 8 with the new Metro touch UI. Such was the lack of appeal of Metro that, combined with Microsoft’s ongoing squabbles with PC makers, Windows 8 was blamed for record low PC sales over Christmas 2012.

Big new departures for Windows 10 are the arrival of Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana from mobile and support for Universal Apps, which are supposed to run in the same way on Windows 10 phones and Windows 10 devices and PCs.

Cortana is Microsoft’s supposed answer to Apple’s Siri and Google Now; unlike these, it won’t be exclusive to Microsoft’s platform, with limited versions of Cortana coming to iOS and Android.

With Windows 10 Microsoft is trying to merge the perception of “what is Windows” by closing the technology gap between Windows on PCs and phones, from both the perspective of the apps and a core kernel. It’s also conflating the messaging.

Microsoft is, meanwhile, letting PC partners extend Cortana.

Lenovo said on Monday that Cortana is being extended to work with Lenovo’s REACHit cloud file storage and management system, which works on Android, iOS and Windows. REACHit will search Google Drive, DropBox and Box.

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