Microsoft said in its corporate blog that the new OS will launch "this summer"

For those waiting for the end of the Windows 8 era, the magic number could be 5.  That's the number of months, give or take a few weeks, until the launch of the next version of the Windows operating system (OS), Windows 10.

I. Launching Soon to PCs Near You

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) EVP of operating systems (OS), Terry Myerson, committed to launching Windows 10 "this summer" in a keynote speech at the 2015 Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) summit in Shenzhen, China yesterday.

In an official corporate blog post he reiterates this commitment to the global audience, writing:

We continue to make great development progress and shared today that Windows 10 will be available this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages.

This marks the first time Microsoft has officially announced how many countries Windows 10 would be available in at launch, and how many languages, at launch, the new OS will support.

Windows 10 -- Start Menu

Windows 10 Start Menu
Windows 10 restores the desktop to prominence for users of traditional PCs.  It features a fresh Modern UI Start Menu. [Image Source: Microsoft]

The announcement marks the latest narrowing of Microsoft's release window.  The company's executives had previously identified the release window as "2015" and then "H2 2015."  And yes, in case you missed it, there will be no Windows 9.  The announcement was also the first time we've gotten official confirmation that Windows 10 will be available for the Xbox One and smartphones alongside the PC at launch.

IE 11 cross platform

[Image Source: Microsoft]

Summer, according to Merriam-Webster is typically defined in the U.S. as the time between the June solstice and the September equinox.  Internationally, summer is sometimes alternatively defined in the northern hemisphere as the months of June, July, and August.

Most likey Microsoft will look to launch the OS in August or September, as it's still integrating key features into its Public Preview builds and working to expand the codebase to cover different kinds of systems like smartphones.  It's also adding new firmware support, including finalizing the DirectX 12 API (which is currently a bit unstable) and adding support for the dual-role USB 3.1 standard.

Windows 10 on a smartphon
[Image Source: Microsoft]

An August or early September launch would boost Microsoft's partner OEMs, by providing a key selling point just in time for the back-to-school shopping season.

As Myerson was speaking to a global audience, one might guess that he was using the more global definition of summer, which would strongly hint at a launch in August -- roughly five months from now.

Windows 10 free
[Image Source: The Verge]

Windows 10 is a free upgrade for Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 users.  Users without a license to one of those OSes will have to pay standard rates, though.

II. Windows 10 Will Support 64-Bit ARM, Android Swapout

Speaking of "different kinds of systems" to be supported by Windows 10, Myerson also let slip more tidbit about the platform's reach in his blog.  He writes:

For the first time, a new version of Windows for small footprint IoT devices will be available – for free – when Windows 10 launches. Windows 10 will offer versions of Windows for a diverse set of IoT devices, ranging from powerful devices like ATMs and ultrasound machines, to resource constrained devices like gateways. Through key partnerships with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Intel, Qualcomm and others, we will provide great options for commercial devices builders, hobbyists and students.

We also introduced the Qualcomm DragonBoard 410C to the Windows 10 device family. The Qualcomm DragonBoard 410C is the first Windows 10 developer board with integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, and a smartphone-class Snapdragon 410 chipset.

Previously released press images had shown Window 10 would support small hobbyists microcomputers like the wildly popular Raspberry Pi.

Windows 10 family

Raspberry Pi boards pack sub-1 GHz ARM cores.  The fasted 'Pi si the second generation "Raspberry Pi B", which packs a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 chip clocked at 900 MHz.
 Raspberry Pi
A Raspberry Pi B+ board is pictured.

Support for Qualcomm Inc.'s (QCOMSnapdragon 410 confirms that Microsoft will be supporting 64-bit ARM processors for the first time.

While Intel Corp. (INTC) and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) -- who use the PC market's dominant x86 architecture -- have been making 64-bit processors for years, 64-bit ARM CPUs are a new development.

64 bit
[Image Source: MIPS Dev]

ARM Holdings plc's (LON:ARM) first released a licensable 64-bit instruction set and a set of core designs (the Cortex-A50 and Cortex-A53) in 2012.  The first processor using ARM's new 64-bit instruction set was the Apple A7 system on a chip (SoC), which launched inside the iPhone 5S in 2013.  The first mass market 64-bit ARM processors from Qualcomm trickled out in Q4 of last year, enabling 64-bit processing on devices using Google Inc.'s (GOOG) market-leading Android OS.
Qualcomm Snapdragon

The timing is right for 64-bit ARM support in Windows.  Intriguingly Myerson writes:

Through a new program with Xiaomi, one of the top smartphone distributors in the world, a select group of Xiaomi Mi 4 power users will be invited to help test Windows 10 and contribute to its future release later this year.

That indicates a somewhat bigger surprise -- that Microsoft will for the first time be offering its operating system in the smartphone space as a standalone product on compatible hardware.  Google surely isn't overly happy with the prospect of users overwriting its Android OS with Windows 10, but that's precisely what Microsoft is offering.

Microsoft has partnered up with Xiaomi to test out an OS overwrite option, which could replace Android with Windows 10 on compatible smartphones. 

It's unclear whether this OS swapout option will be made available to all customers on compatible ARM chips or be locked to certain OEMs (like Xiaomi).  Either way, this is some pretty interesting news!

III. Biometrics and the Chinese Connection

Microsoft also announced that Windows 10 would come with a core application called "Windows Hello", which would allow users to replace their password with biometric scans of different kinds ("face, iris, or fingerprint").

Microsoft singled out Intel's RealSense F200 sensor as one example of a biometric scanner compatible with Windows Hello.  RealSense is a firmware-driven depth sensing technology that Intel is promoting to laptop OEMs.  It allows a new more secure form of facial recognition.  This is critical as early 2D facial scanning algorithms were easily spoofed by photographs making them a risky option at best.  3D face-mapping algorithms are a significantly superior replacement.

Where Windows 8 was largely snubbed in China and banned by the Chinese government who called it  a "security risk", Microsoft is going to great lengths to make sure Windows 10 does better in the world's largest electronics market.

Windows Party
Microsoft is working to ensure Windows 10 gets a warmer welcome in China than Windows 8.
[Image Source: EPA]

Microsoft is teaming up with Tencent Holdings Ltd. (HKG:0700), the largest social networking and gaming services provider in China, to create a universal app version of Tencent's QQ app, which boasts 800 million users in China.  Tencent's computer maker subsidiary, which has hundreds of millions of customers will also launch an upgrade package for users with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 computers.

Qihoo 360 Technology Comp. Ltd. (QIHU), China's top PC security firm, will also distribute Windows 10 upgrade packages to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users.  Qihoo (sometimes called "Qihu" in English) has 500+ million users in China alone.

The Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG:0992) -- the largest global PC maker by volume -- will also be offering Windows 10 upgrade support at its 2,500 Chinese retail outlets and service centers.  Lenovo, whose phone efforts are rapidly expanding, also announced it would launch new Windows 10 smartphones on China's largest carrier, China Mobile Ltd.(HKG:0941)

Sources: Windows [official blog], [

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