Why Is That Windows 10 Icon In My Task Bar? Everything You Need To Know About Windows 10

It’s official: Windows 10 is coming next month, July 29, to be specific. And it’s free. Here’s what you need to know:

Wait, so that little icon in my task bar is not malware that my computer caught from a digital toilet seat?

Nope. It’s legit. Microsoft wants you to preregister for Windows 10 and reserve a free upgrade.

Free as in…?

As in free. If you’ve already got Windows 7 or 8, you can get Windows 10 for free. Well, only if you’re a person, not a company, but practically speaking? It’s free. You’ll have a full year to decide; the upgrade will be available for free until July 29th, 2016.

Why do I need to “reserve” a free copy of an upgrade?

Presumably so Microsoft knows how hard its pipes are getting slammed.

PHRASING! Anyway, what’s new?

A lot, but here’s the most important stuff in bullets:

  • It’s a unified OS; it’ll run on tablets, phones, and computers, and not coincidentally, will have features allowing you to tie the three together if they all run the same OS.
  • Internet Explorer has joined Netscape in the recycling bin; the new browser is called Microsoft Edge, and it’s a surprisingly unique and dynamic browser.
  • It supports some of Microsoft’s edgier and gutsier ideas, like the Hololens.
  • Solitaire’s back, and so is the Start Menu.
  • Voice commands are part of the system now, making your computer more like Star Trek‘s than ever before.
  • It can stream Xbox One games, which is a big deal for both gamers and PC players.
  • And, most importantly, there will finally be a legit middle-finger emoji.

That’s… uh, that’s way more than I was expecting for free.

Meet the new Microsoft.

Why such a bold move from a company that not so long ago tried to make us subscribe to Office?

Desktops and laptops are rapidly shrinking as a sector of the computing market. So, Microsoft’s strategy has been twofold; make itself relevant in markets like mobile and tablets, which is why that annoyingly catchy Surface ad is everywhere these days, and make its products more attractive. That means spending some of their billions swinging for the fences and seeing what sticks. It also means forgoing the home market, which realistically was a relatively small one for them, in order to get people to actually spend money on stuff like their fancy hologram visor.

How effective do you think this will be?

The word “free” is powerful. And the reality is, if you buy a desktop or laptop at all these days, it’s probably got Windows on it anyway. It’ll be worth the upgrade, if for no other reason than to see how all these fancy features work and to get your Start menu back.