Let's face it, Windows 8 has always been in the shadow of the mighty Windows 7. Sales have been poor by Microsoft's standards and Windows 7 still remains the most popular Operating System in use today.
Microsoft are looking to change that with Windows 10 by doing something they've never before...
You can get a Windows 10 FREE upgrade within the first year of launch if you currently have Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1!
This is a major change in direction for Microsoft and definitely a welcome one. Apple's major updates to their Mac operating system OSX have either been very cheap (£14.99) or more recently completely free.
It's good to see Microsoft moving with the times since there is usually a steep upgrade cost for Windows, somewhere in the region of £100 for the very latest version. This is why many of us don't bother or we simply wait until we're in the market for a new computer.
Microsoft are obviously keen to get as many individuals and businesses as possible upgrading to Windows 10 so offering this for free is a smart move and will ultimately mean a much greater uptake from the start.
What is Windows 10?
Windows 10 is Microsoft's next major Operating System since Windows 8 was launched back in late 2012. And the big news is - yes it will come with a Start button! (The Windows 8 start button was controversially missing).
If you're wondering what happened to Windows 9, Microsoft simply skipped 9 and went straight to 10. Since this is quite a significant new release for Microsoft, my guess would be Windows 10 simply sounds better and grander than Windows 9.
Windows 10 Design
There is still a big emphasis on what Microsoft calls the Metro design which was first introduced in Windows 8.
The user interface does away with fancy curves and gradients and everything has a simple, clean, flat look. Single blocks of colour, simple rectangles and clean, easy to read fonts.
It's one of those design statements that once everyone copies and we all start getting bored with it, fancy curves, gradients and glossy graphics will come back in fashion again!
Mobile first, where does that leave desktop?
Microsoft have built Windows 10 to be
In 2014, internet usage on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) was greater than traditional computers and Microsoft are very aware of this.
We live in a much more connected and mobile world and with Windows 10, Microsoft want your experience to be seamless whether you're at home, in the office or out and about.
Of course this doesn't mean that Windows 10 for desktop computers is an afterthought, far from it. Mobile first just means there is a greater focus on integrating the entire experience no matter what device or service you use.
A key component then is the way Windows 10 will automatically sync your data via their cloud service OneDrive meaning you will have access to your files wherever you are (so long as you have an internet connection).
Create a document at home, edit it on the move, finish it at work.
What is Cortana?
Cortana is Microsoft's voice recognition, personal assistant which first appeared on Windows Phone 8.1. (Cortana comes from the name of the artificial intelligence in the Halo video games).
Cortana will be fully integrated into Windows 10 allowing voice control for common tasks such as opening apps, searching Google (I mean Bing), asking what the weather will be like and even writing emails for you.
As with other voice recognition systems (Apple's Siri & Google Now), Cortana attempts to recognise and understand natural speech and will even talk back you to!
So rather than having to learn primitive voice commands, you can say something like
what's the weather going to be like tomorrow? and Cortana will understand what you mean and present you with the answer.
Incredibly clever? Absolutely. Bit of a gimmick? Probably.
Why offer Windows 10 for free?
The landscape of Operating System upgrades has changed considerably in the last 8 years and can arguably be attributed to the launch of the original iPhone in 2007 and the first Android smartphone in 2008.
With the arrival of mobile computing, paying for new OS versions quickly became a thing of the past. Apple then applied this model to Macs and despite Microsoft being mainly a software company (that's the soft in Microsoft) they knew they had to follow suit.
But remember Windows 10 is only free for Windows 7, 8.1 and Phone 8.1 users so anyone desperately clinging on to their old copy of XP or Vista is out of luck. Also the offer expires after 1 year so they will clearly still make money from Windows 10 sales in the long run.
Microsoft are basically hoping you will buy into their ecosystem, their App Store and their hardware, so offering Windows 10 for free is a great foot in the door for them.
How much is Windows 10?
Microsoft haven't announced prices yet for anyone that doesn't qualify for the free upgrade.
Given their aggressive strategy to get Windows 10 into as many homes and offices as possible I would hope they will also lower their usually high retail prices.
Windows 10 release date
Microsoft haven't given concrete details on the official Windows 10 release date, however this is likely to be late 2015. Given previous launches our best guess would be around October 2015.
So watch this space and we'll update as soon as we know more...
Windows 10 release date (UPDATE)
The Windows 10 release date has been officially announced as the 29th July 2015.
If you are eligible for the free update you will see a white Windows 10 icon in the notification bar at the bottom right.
Click this icon to reserve your copy. The download will be approximately 3GB so make sure your data plan covers it.