Windows 10 Available July 29: Partners Cheer, But Say Challenges Remain

It's official. Windows 10 ships July 29, according to Microsoft, which made the announcement Monday. Microsoft partners said they are hopeful the release will spark hardware sales, however, are less optimistic the upgrade will ignite the same type revenue uptick they experienced with previous OS releases given that Windows 10 is free.

"Microsoft makes a compelling case with Windows 10, but our customers -- who are still stuck on Windows 7 -- are still leery about Windows 8, and Windows 10 is still an unknown quantity," said one federal and state solution provider that asked not to be identified. "Our customers aren't making a move to Windows 10 anytime soon."

On Monday, Microsoft said that Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade to business users and consumers using Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. More so than previous versions of Windows, the Windows 10 operating system caters to mobile devices, allowing users to switch seamlessly between personal computers, tablets, smartphones and other gadgets.

[Related: Top 5 New Windows 10 Preview Features In Build 10061]

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Windows 10 brings both opportunity and missed opportunity, said Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus, a systems builder based in Minnetonka, Minn. "It's been a well-known story that Windows 8 has not been a popular OS. We think Windows 10 will be the OS that finally prompts customers to replace their aging Windows 7 systems."

Swank said two things are working against Windows 10 being a money-maker. On one hand, the OS will be a free upgrade for his customers. Secondly, the upgrade to Windows 10 will allow most companies to use existing hardware without the need for upgrading internal components.

"This is an operating system made for tablets and desktops. It's a sleek and lean OS that doesn't need a big hardware upgrade -- if any at all," Swank said.

Systems builders and solution providers said that Windows 10, in tandem with Intel's new Skylake microarchitecture, expected to be released in August at the Intel Developer Forum, will spur PC sales.

For high-performance workstation and gaming system builder Maingear, Windows 10 is expected to boost PC sales by as much as 25 percent in 2015 for the company. "Microsoft has made gaming a huge part of the Windows 10 release with ties to Xbox and the introduction of DirectX 12," said Wallace Santos, CEO of Maingear, based in Newark, N.J.

Santos conceded that his customers were mostly on the bleeding edge of the PC upgrade cycle and that average business users might not be compelled to upgrade right away.

Analyst firm IDC said despite Windows 10 being a catalyst to the PC market -- providing an upgrade path from Windows 7 for commercial users -- the PC shipments will continue to decline 6.5 percent in 2015.

"Microsoft and PC vendors still need to convince users of the advantages of the new OS and new PCs, which will take some time," wrote Loren Loverde, vice president of IDC's Worldwide PC Trackers report, released last week. "In addition to educating clients, they'll face tough competition from other devices, and weak spending in many regions. As a result, we see PC shipments stabilizing in 2016, followed by limited growth for the next few years."

As part of Microsoft's campaign to drive upgrades to its Windows 10 platform, which introduces a number of Microsoft hooks such as Cortana and its cloud services, the company will prompt users to upgrade via a "Get Windows 10" campaign. A small Windows logo icon appears in the notification section of the task bar, and clicking the icon launches the Get Windows 10 app, where users can submit their email address for an alert to download the OS the moment it becomes available.

"Prompting customers to upgrade is going to be a challenge for system builders," Swank said. But, he said, Windows 10 opens up an opportunity for his company to spark a conversation with its customers about how they can take advantage of new mobility and cloud-centric benefits of Windows 10, and how it can elevate their business.