Well, it's official: Windows 10, the long-awaited follow-up to the disastrous Windows 8, will ship to customers in "early fall 2015," a full three years after its predecessor. That's the traditional timeframe for Windows releases, and it suggests that for all the talk about "rapid release" in Redmond, the company isn't really able to rev its bigger product lines as quickly as many had hoped.
This new comes courtesy of Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, who told the Japanese news service Nikkei this morning that Windows 10 will be released "early next fall." Mr. Turner last week had said the release was pegged at "late next summer or early fall." But given the online debates that arose in the wake of that statement, we can assume the clarification was deliberate.
Microsoft's original plan was to develop and ship Windows 10—originally and more logically called Windows 9 at the time—in just a year and ship it in April 2015. That development cycle hinged on the shipment of Windows 8.1, and on Windows 9 essentially being Windows 8.2 under the covers. In other words, it wasn't really a major release, though it was being positioned as one to distance it from the disaster of Windows 8.
With Microsoft's later decision to push further and rebrand the release as Windows 10, a few things changed. First, Microsoft is trying to distance itself even further from Windows 8, and provide a bigger theoretical gap between Windows 7 and that release to incite upgrades and avoid another XP-like situation where an older Windows version stays in the market for too long. And second, the firm is really trying to position this as a major release by promoting the notion of a single platform underling embedded/Internet of Things devices, phones, tablets, PCs and even Xbox.
But that's mostly marketing smoke: Microsoft was already using the same core platform under each of these platforms and is simply evolving Windows a bit further in this release. Just as it did with Windows 8 and then Windows 8.1.
So what's taking so long? One could only guess, but Windows is a large and complex platform that's only getting larger and more complex as Microsoft massages it to work equally well across so many different kinds of hardware. So while Windows 10 may only be a minor change from the perspective of a Windows 8.1 user—a "Windows 8.2," if you will—it needs to work well as an upgrade for Windows 7 users too, and for Windows Phone users. And it needs to work on tiny embedded devices, and on Microsoft's powerful Xbox One gaming system.
The only problem with "early fall 2015"—let's call it September 2015—is that it means Microsoft will once again miss the back to school PC buying season. This should be unacceptable to both Microsoft and its PC making partners, and I'm curious why the PC-based versions of Windows 10—and perhaps the tablet versions—can't ship earlier—say, June 2015—to accommodate this need.
And who knows? Perhaps Microsoft will surprise us on the schedule. Certainly, the good folks making Windows 10 have already provided more than a few pleasant surprises since taking the reins.