SAN FRANCISCO — Microsoft debuted its new Windows 10 operating system Wednesday, in what the company hopes will be a pivotal moment in its bid regain its sway in a world where the PC is no longer king.
The first people to get the new software Wednesday included about 5 million “insiders,” or tech enthusiasts who previously enrolled in an early preview program. Microsoft is counting on tens or even hundreds of millions more to download its latest release for free in coming months.
Others will get the software when they buy a new PC. While some new models equipped with Windows 10 are available in stores this week, more will hit the market this fall. Microsoft and major PC makers are planning a global ad campaign that will extend into the crucial holiday shopping season.
Although Windows 10 is coming to PCs and tablets first, it’s also designed to run phones, game consoles and even holographic headsets. It has new features, a streamlined Web browser called Edge and a desktop version of Cortana, the online assistant that is Microsoft’s answer to Google Now and Apple’s Siri.
Still, the company insists Windows 10 will seem familiar to users of Windows 7, the older operating system still running on most PCs. Microsoft and PC makers want to erase the memory of the last big update, 2012’s Windows 8, which alienated many with its jarring, unwieldy design.
Microsoft skipped the name Windows 9, as if to distance itself further from the last release. While many analysts believe Windows 8 made sagging PC sales even worse, it’s far from certain if Windows 10 will spur the industry back to growth.