Microsoft to kick off Windows 10 ad campaign next week

Even though most users won't get the upgrade on July 29

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Microsoft may not be handing Windows 10 to all who want it on July 29, but it will still kick off a global campaign that day to convince customers to migrate to the new operating system.

The campaign, dubbed "Upgrade Your World," will run for a year, Microsoft said today, the same timeline for the free offer to upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.

"We will host global fan celebrations, join thousands of retailers to help customers upgrade to Windows 10, and welcome the newest generation of Windows fans via a new global advertising campaign and through online content," said Yusuf Mehdi, an executive in the Windows and Devices Group, on a Monday blog entry published just before the company opened its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Orlando, Fla.

Television and online ad campaigns supporting Windows 10 and its upgrade path will debut July 20 in the U.S., and on July 29 globally, Mehdi said.

On launch day Microsoft will "celebrate the unprecedented role our biggest fans played in the development of Windows 10," said Mehdi, with events in 13 cities focusing on Windows Insiders, the testers who have kicked tires since October through a series of preview builds.

As Microsoft has before, Mehdi cited 5 million Insider participants, a number not supported by user share data provided by Net Applications. According to the analytics firm, less than two-tenths of a percentage point of all Windows personal computers ran Windows 10 in June, representing about 2.6 million PCs.

That number should rise dramatically starting July 29, when Insiders get first dibs on the final build, delivered to them as yet another update. Others, however, will have to wait, even though Microsoft once touted July 29 as the date when everyone was to get the upgrade.

Instead, earlier this month Terry Myerson, Microsoft's top operating system and devices executive, confirmed that the company will roll out the free Windows 10 upgrade in waves, with a queue built from the "reservations" that users of Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro have registered from their devices.

People who have reserved an upgrade through Microsoft's on-screen nag-and-notification campaign will be told that their devices are ready to update only after Microsoft has silently pushed the bits to their machines and checked for potential compatibility issues.

Nor will most new machines be pre-loaded with Windows 10 on day one. In an interview with Bloomberg, Mehdi said, "You will see computers running with Windows 10 installed very soon after the 29th and then in the fall a whole new class of machines for the holidays." [Emphasis added.]

That's a change from past practice, likely due to the tight schedule that Microsoft has adopted for the OS. For example, it has not yet declared the "release to manufacturing," or RTM, milestone for Windows 10, even though launch is just two weeks away. Historically, Microsoft has given OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) about three months to prep new PCs with a new operating system.

Some OEMs will be the exception to that rule. Dell, for instance, has pledged to start shipping pre-ordered Windows 10-powered PCs on July 29, with free next-day delivery. The Round Rock, Texas company can do that because it delivers devices on a build-to-order basis, and sells systems almost exclusively through an online mart.

Microsoft will account for the paucity of new Windows 10 devices at launch by partnering with a large number of retailers, including Best Buy, Staples and Wal-Mart in the U.S., with upgrade programs. The Redmond, Wash. firm's own retail outlets -- more than 100 in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico -- will also offer upgrade assistance.

Microsoft is working under a self-imposed deadline to put Windows 10 on a billion devices worldwide within three years. To make that number, it will have to not only push OEMs to ship devices, but convince a huge number of those now running Windows 7 or 8.1 to move to Windows 10.

The fan-based approach to the Windows 10 launch -- celebrations in its stores, the emphasis on Insiders for the 13-city events -- was reminiscent of an effort Microsoft made in early 2014 to convince users, specifically its most advanced and active users, to help others upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 8.1. The initiative was hooted down by those who said that that was Microsoft's job, not theirs.

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