Updated from July 15 to include final release date and recent earnings information parsed throughout.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Report previous version of Windows was a relative flop. Instead of improving the overall PC experience, Windows 8, and the slightly modified 8.1, added layers of complexity which confused and angered a large number of Windows users.
With the company's engineers furiously putting the final touches on the next version of the Windows operating system, they're hoping the newly refined software will help win back the hearts, minds and especially the hard drives powering the majority of world's personal computers.
Starting tomorrow, Microsoft will begin rolling out Windows 10, free to everyone for the first year, skipping past the Windows 9 moniker altogether. And Microsoft wants everyone to know it's so serious about Windows 10 that it's allowing current Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users to upgrade to 10 for free -- at least for the first year.
From what we've experienced with the Windows 10 beta software running on a number of different hardware platforms -- desktops, laptops, tablets -- we are truly impressed by what we've seen.
Windows 10 will ship with a bunch of new PC features, including Microsoft's Cortana audio assistant and integration with the company's Xbox One gaming console and its Xbox Live online component. While Windows 10 drops the company's Media Center programs, it does add a number of new apps, Maps, Photos, Mail and Calendar, Music and Video, all of which sync with Microsoft's OneDrive cloud system for easy access on all of your Windows devices.
In a number of important ways, Windows 10 has much in common with Windows 7, especially in its look and feel.
Thankfully, that means the Windows 8 interface which confused the majority of users has now been demoted to second-class status. It's been shrunk to a much more manageable size and will now be available only as part of the returning "Start" menu. The Windows 8's slide-out "Charms" bar is replaced by a new Windows 10 "Notifications Center" so you can see your latest messages and quick access buttons for some of your computer's most used settings.
For most users the release date will only be a starting point.
It's expected that the millions of beta testers who have been enrolled the company's "Insider Preview" program will be the first to receive the Windows 10 final release on or about that date. Microsoft has been quick to point out that everyone else who enrolled in the upgrade program will "get a notification after July 29, 2015 once Windows 10 is downloaded to your device."
This release is particularly important to Microsoft, as it starts the shift from making money on its operating system to making money on peripherals, including things like ads, apps and other businesses tied to the operating system.
For the fiscal third-quarter, Microsoft reported a loss of $3.2 billion, or 40 cents a share, on revenue of $22.2 billion. Excluding the $7.6 billion Nokia write-down and other items, Microsoft would have earned 62 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast Microsoft would earn 56 cents a share on $22.06 billion in sales.
While the operating system is free to upgrade for the first year, it will cost users $120 to upgrade after that.
Dell is one of the few major computer manufacturers offering Windows 10 computers beginning on its official release day. The company promises that it will begin installing the new operating system on new laptops immediately, and promises next-business-day delivery for a number of its models.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.