WEDNESDAY is arguably the most important day in Microsoft's recent history. We're primed and ready for what is expected to be the consumer launch of Windows 10, easily the most pivotal release in its 30 years as the world's predominant operating system.
If Microsoft gets it right, it's likely to rescue the company from the failure of the lacklustre Windows 8, and subsequently tainted but good Windows 8.1.
It's not as if the company hasn't been here before, of course. Windows Vista, released in 2006, has already gone down as a major flop, and now commands a tiny share of the market despite having over two years before it reaches end-of-life.
But this is different in many ways. Firstly, people are more tech savvy than ever before. It would be wrong to say that they had no choice, but they certainly have a bigger choice in side-stepping the Windows ecosystem than ever before, and a greater understanding of how to do it.
Chromebooks, tablets, USB booting and Windows-based installers for Linux such as Ubuntu WUBI all make it very easy to say "sod this" if Microsoft isn't playing nice.
But also, what will be launched as Windows 10 will not be a huge surprise. The Windows Insider Programme has represented a huge shift for Microsoft in terms of its openness with the general public.
For the first time, the unfinished version of Windows 10 has been available for download for four months, warts and all, as the company seeks feedback from power users to make sure it gets it right in the first place.
So what can we expect from the announcement? Here's a bit of what we know, a lot of what we expect, and the odd bit of wild speculation, all set to a weirdly out-of-place contemporary music soundtrack.
1. Start Button Ever since Windows 8 was released without a Start Button of any kind the cries of "bring it back" have rung round the internet.
People don't like change. And when the alternatives served Microsoft's purposes in attempting to move people onto the tiled interface they didn't want, rather than serving a need, it was always going to spell fireworks.
Windows 8.1 attempted to resolve the problem, but the new Start Button didn't actually do anything other than toggle between the Modern/Metro interface and the traditional desktop.
When a preview of a new Start Button with menu based on a hybrid of live-tiles and the traditional All Programs arrangement was revealed at last year's Build Conference, it got the biggest whoop of the day. So far, it looks like finally this is the one we've been waiting for to bring back that familiar navigation.
2. What's My Name?
One of the great mysteries of Windows 10 is why it's called Windows 10. That is to say - what happened to Windows 9?
Microsoft tells us that it will all start to make sense and that Windows 10 is a "more appropriate name".
OK. We can get behind that if it is the case, but it's a tad cryptic. We're hoping tomorrow that, as we see the version of Windows 10 that will emblazon across desktops, laptops, tablets, phones and every other form factor to come, we get some sort of clue as to what "more appropriate" means? Or is it all just a load of marketing whooey?
3. Price Tag*
This is in many ways the biggie. We've already talked about how there are a lot of alternatives to Windows now. And this is the kicker - the vast majority of them are free.
And given that Microsoft continues to charge for its products, it needs to have a flippin' good reason.
There has been a lot of speculation that Windows 10 will introduce a completely different pricing structure for Windows. It is a bit of a leap to say that it will become freeware, but we could expect free, or heftily discounted, packages for Windows 8 users, and possibly for 7, XP and Vista.
It is in the company's interest to break the fragmentation which still sees between 10 and 20 percent of its customers using a 14-year-old OS (XP), and the fact that Windows 7's market share continues to rise instead of fall is a constant source of frustration to the company's attempts to move forward. We're hoping that we might actually get to find out tomorrow what the plan is.
*We had considered using How much is that doggie in the window? but Jessie J has better legs, and less of a waggly tail.
4. Work It
The money left in Windows is going to remain as a tool for enterprises. Although this event is the 'consumer' preview, don't be fooled: there is an awful lot about Windows 10 that is designed to appeal to the refuseniks who have thus far been responsible for the lack of uptake of Windows 8.
Key to this is the convergence of the various versions of Windows for different form factors into a single adaptable OS with universal apps.
This alone will make it a lot easier for system administrators to enrol, manage and secure devices deployed around an organisation, even if that means at a global level, and as more and more people BYOD that level of granular control is going to be crucial for security.
5. Temporary Secretary
It is no secret that Microsoft's virtual assistant, Cortana, is on the cards for Windows 10. It has already been successfully integrated by the Windows team, but is yet to get a public airing.
This could be the time. Cortana is already proving to be more contextually intelligent than its main rivals Siri and Google Now, and having a single instance of Siri working across all your devices could be a killer feature for Microsoft, as long as it doesn't change her voice to be Scarlett Johansson, in which case life will mimic art and we'll all be swooning and mooning over our plastic pal who's fun to be with.
Other features from elsewhere in the Microsoft stable are expected in the form of heavy Xbox integration, with Windows 10 integration also planned for Xbox. It's a cosy little love-in and no mistake.
Of course, this list is far from exhaustive and, like the rest of the world, we were caught on the hop by the omission of Windows 9, so it could be that on Thursday morning we will be hastily rewriting this article because Microsoft has announced something completely random just to keep us on our toes.
But isn't speculation half the fun? All we really know is that what happens next decides Microsoft's place in the market, so we're waiting with bated breath. µ
And it'll even undo the damage
Affected employees have 60 days to find a new home at the company
Doesn't inspire confidence in HongMeng's appeal
But don't get too excited if you've already got one