Windows 10 is officially available today.
But unlike the debut of Windows 8 three years ago, there will not be queues at retail stores because you will not be able to buy Windows 10 today.
Instead, Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users. Eligible users received an offer on their computers to reserve the upgrade last month.
There is no catch.
Microsoft has said that a device upgraded to Windows 10 will have it for free for the supported lifespan of the device. You can do a clean install on the device as often as you like.
The company will provide free technical support and updates for Windows 10 till Oct 13, 2020. Such updates are mandatory and should improve security.
Technical help will not be free after this period, but Microsoft will continue to provide free security fixes till Oct 14, 2025.
However, Windows 10 is only going out today to the five million Windows Insiders who had previously signed up to test the software.
Microsoft will roll out the upgrade gradually to those who had reserved the upgrade, before making it available to all eligible users. The free upgrade is valid till July 29 next year.
The alternative is to buy a new PC preloaded with Windows 10. But choices are limited.
Acer told us that it has two Windows 10 computers at a Challenger roadshow at Funan DigitaLife Mall. Dell is selling three Windows 10 PCs on its website. But Windows 10 PCs from Asus, HP and Lenovo will reach stores only next month.
To buy a new copy of Windows 10, you may have to wait till next month. At press time, Microsoft has not revealed the local pricing for Windows 10. In the United States, the software costs US$119 (S$163) for the Home edition and US$199 for the Pro edition.
What you need to upgrade to Windows 10
If your PC is running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, it is likely to be compatible with Windows 10.
Ensure that your computer has been updated with the latest patches. Then, check the taskbar for the Get Windows 10 app. This checks whether your system qualifies for the Windows 10 upgrade and allows you to reserve a copy.
Most existing apps should work after the upgrade. You can revert to the computer's former version of Windows after the upgrade. But you should still back up important data before upgrading.
For those running an older version of Windows (XP or Vista), you can buy and upgrade to Windows 10 if your computer meets the following requirements:
•1GHz or faster processor
•1GB of memory (32-bit Win 10) or 2GB of memory (64-bit Win 10)
•16GB of hard drive space (32-bit Win 10) or 20GB (64-bit Win 10)
•DirectX 9 or later graphics card
•1,024 x 600-pixel display
Certain Windows 10 features will not work if the hardware is absent. The Windows Hello face unlock feature, for instance, needs a fingerprint reader or special camera.
The Windows 10 edition that you will get from the upgrade would depend on your existing Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 edition (see graphic above).
This relatively low-key approach to Windows 10 signals Microsoft's switch to a different way of selling its software.
At its developer conference earlier this year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said: "Windows 10 is not just another release of Windows. It is actually an entirely new way for us to think about our hardware OS."
The new way is Windows as a service - Microsoft will constantly update Windows instead of bundling everything in a new version every few years.
Gartner research director Tracy Tsai sees this move as part of a trend: "The operating system serves as a background service to support the apps, content and services users want to access. Users want a seamless experience, regardless of the platform."
Today sees the launch of the PC and tablet version, with Microsoft releasing a mobile version later this year.
The company hopes that Windows 10 will be on a billion devices within three years.
Forrester Research senior analyst Clement Teo believes this target can be achieved. He sees Windows 10 replacing Windows 7 as the new enterprise standard.
Unlike consumers, companies do not get Windows 10 upgrades for free. Most of Microsoft's revenue from Windows comes from licensing to businesses.
Mr Teo is less upbeat about Windows 10's prospects in smartphones and tablets: "It does not show enough potential for a differentiated mobile experience that will draw developers and consumers alike away from iOS and Android."
Tech enthusiast Kwang Xuan Qing, 27, has been using an early version of Windows 10 for more than a week and likes what he sees.
"Microsoft has actually listened to the consumer. The user interface is a lot cleaner and is more accessible," he said.