So how does this play out? Microsoft publicly stated for the first time last week at Build that Windows 10, rather than launching as a single OS on a number of devices, would instead stagger its launch schedule, with Windows 10 for the desktop coming first, and on track for a "summer" release.
Later in the year, the company still has to prepare and execute separate launches for phones, Windows 10 on Xbox, and for the HoloLens, but what does that look like? Microsoft has run out of conferences for the year, with E3 in June coming too early in the cycle for a possible Xbox launch (although it could certainly talk quite a bit more about what Windows 10 on Xbox entails, and perhaps even set a launch date, hopefully something more than "holiday season 2015").
With the staggered launch, Microsoft is going to need to make not one big splash, but several. For Windows 10 on the desktop, a late July launch still seems most likely, just in time for some back to school action, but more importantly the right time for the launch of a monster of a marketing campaign, one that will continue to build all the way through the holiday season and beyond.
As a Seattle resident, I'd love to see Microsoft show off its civic pride and hold these launches in Redmond, but the world doesn't come to Microsoft anymore. San Francisco and New York are the centers of the tech and financial worlds, and Microsoft needs to pay homage.
The most likely target for Windows 10's grand entrance could be in New York, where every major news organization has its roots, and the company can pay its respects to Wall Street. Microsoft has held launch events in New York before, most recently for Windows 8. For a launch as important as Windows 10, New York feels right.
That leaves an event to launch phones, as Microsoft will want to make a big splash with new phones, Continuum, and a set of announcements about new apps coming back into the Windows Phone family. As Microsoft found out, apps are important, and a Windows Phone launch should be a good opportunity to tout the early success of its Bridge project, with new apps either written as Windows 10 Universal apps, or ported over using projects Astoria and Islandwood. This could also happen in New York, back in San Francisco, or in LA. It could conceivably even happen in Europe, where Windows Phones have a stronger presence.
If Microsoft can land some app conversions to blow its horn about them, San Francisco, could make a lot of sense since it happens to be the center of the iOS and Android world. Of course "when" is a more vexing question than where, but early fall, say late September or early October, could be a good bet.
Windows 10 on Xbox One
While Windows 10 on Xbox One is going to be a big deal, bringing a full slate of Window 10 apps to the gaming console and probably a host of new features may not warrant a launch event as Windows 10 will roll out to the Xbox One essentially as a software update. The marketing campaign will come hot and heavy, though, beginning at E3 in June.
Those expecting a holiday 2015 launch of HoloLens are probably going to be disappointed, although it's possible that an early academic and enterprise focused headset could make an appearance by the end of the year. This is pure speculation, but first generation HoloLens devices are going to be pricey, and consumer applications, like games, aren't going to be ready in time to make the kind of splash Microsoft needs and wants to make with HoloLens.
Next year seems like a much more reasonable goal: build up the hype, work out the bugs, refine the hardware and bring the price down, and launch to consumers with a bang instead of a whimper. In the meantime, Microsoft can continue to push HoloLens to the kinds of organizations it rolled out at Build: academic institutions, NASA, and designers. The price will be steep at first, and the tools, libraries, and applications will be scarce, but the buzz will continue to build, and a holiday 2016 launch of a doorbuster priced, full featured, and well supported HoloLens could be huge.