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Is Windows 10 a Gift to PC Makers or the Grinch Poised to Steal Christmas?

Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore tells Re/code he is hopeful that its new operating system will boost sales, but agreed it is too soon to declare victory.

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As Microsoft’s “We love PC makers” tour comes to an end, the big question remains: Will Windows 10 help or hurt holiday PC sales?

In the past, a new release of Windows has generally meant a bump in PC sales, especially for the first holiday after a new release.

But Windows 10 is different. It marks the first time Microsoft has offered consumers a free update for all PCs that are capable of running the software. Mix in the tension as Microsoft enters further into the hardware business with its Surface Book laptop and you have some interesting dialogue between Redmond and the companies that build computers using its software.

For his part, Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore says the new software is poised to help what has clearly been a sluggish PC market, although he said it is too soon to state that definitively.

“It’s early in the big picture,” Belfiore said, speaking at a Lenovo event at a Microsoft loft space in San Francisco’s hip South of Market area. “My opinion … is that this is going to work very well.”

Microsoft executives have spent the days since the Oct. 6 Surface Book launch traveling the globe to appear at events put on by various PC makers. The Lenovo event Monday followed a Friday event for Asus and earlier gatherings put on by Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

The effort is about more than just showing Microsoft and the PC makers as buddy-buddy. All parties are counting on Windows 10 to lead to a big holiday season. The operating system was released back in July, but newly designed models with Windows 10 are just now coming to market.

While some may view the delay as a missed opportunity, Belfiore says the staggered launch gives tech enthusiasts time to digest the new software in time to make recommendations to their gadget-buying friends.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has gotten a head start on its other key mission: Getting existing PCs to run its latest software. There are now 110 million PCs running Windows 10, with most of those being older PCs that were upgraded as opposed to new sales.

Microsoft has set a big goal, saying it wants to have a billion devices actively using the software by 2017. If it can do that, Microsoft is confident that it can win the loyalty of software makers, many of whom are writing for Android or iOS rather than for Windows.

Products like Microsoft’s Surface Book have a role to play in allowing Windows to compete at the high end of the market — a segment today essentially owned by Apple. Belfiore insists Microsoft can both make its own devices and fully embrace the other computer makers.

“We’re not strategically confused,” Belfiore said.

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