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Gear up: tech's lazy summer gets wild next week

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Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, and even OnePlus are making announcements

August and July have a reputation for being the slow times. Apple and Google take a breather after their massive developer conferences, consumers are out on vacation, and the drumbeat of the fall’s big events pounds only softly in the cloudy distance.

But not this year.

It’s not just that Apple earnings are tomorrow — hopefully with some hints as to how well the Apple Watch is doing (but don’t hold your breath for any firm numbers). It’s also not just that Samsung up and decided to drop a new premium Android tablet in the dead of night on an unsuspecting world. It’s much more, and next week is going to be nuts. Witness:

Microsoft will have the biggest news next week, though, with the launch of Windows 10. It’s happening on July 29th, but we’re going to let it sneak in for Wednesday the 28th in our tally (thanks time zones!). The launch is going to be different from what most operating system launches look like: it’s a release day, but it will also take some time for most people to upgrade. More importantly, don’t think of it just as a static launch: Microsoft is serious about this being the "last" version of Windows, so July 29th will mainly be the day when Microsoft starts pushing out updates so often that Windows will be less like a static OS and more like an ever-evolving service. I won’t go over all the reasons that Windows 10 is going to be a watershed moment in tech, but here are a few.

Windows 10 looks really good

Windows 10 is going to be a free upgrade for just about everybody, a strong sign that Microsoft really wants this to become the de facto computing platform for desktops and laptops. And mobile, too, though its plans in that regard are nascent — to put it charitably. Microsoft likes to say that there are 1.5 billion people who could upgrade to Win10, and numbers like that should make you pay attention.

Windows 10

But more than anything else, Windows 10 looks really good. We’ll save most of our thoughts for our wall-to-wall coverage next week (Windows-to-Windows? Sorry, had to. But seriously, buckle up). The early looks that have been available to over 5 million Windows Insiders have been impressive. There are still bugs to quash in even the most recent build, but the bottom line is that Microsoft has learned from the bad bets it made with Windows 8 and is fixing all of them.

Most importantly, this seems to be the first desktop operating system that actually feels like it belongs in a mobile-first world. There’s the Cortana personal assistant, "universal" apps that work on both desktop and (someday) mobile, and a web browser that will hopefully be as fast and modern as Microsoft promises.

Motorola will launch at least two new phones in a live press event in New York City on July 28th. A new Moto X and an update to the Moto G are expected — and it’s possible we could see more on top of that (including new Droid variants for Verizon). Motorola’s teaser says that "your relationship status is about to change," which is unfortunately about as vague as teasers get.

Hello Moto, again

But we’ve already seen some leaks out of Hong Kong, namely the backplates for the Moto G, Moto X, and a couple Droid phones. They show that Motorola, now under Lenovo’s management, is sticking to the design language it created with the original Moto X. The Moto G in particular should also graduate from "low-end phone that everybody secretly loves" to "solid upper-mid-range phone that can be customized a million ways from Sunday via Moto Maker." Such is the march of progress and razor-thin slicing of how the Android market works.

Not to be left behind, OnePlus is also due to announce its followup to last year’s surprisingly successful OnePlus One. The supposed OnePlus Two, which should launch on the 27th, is said to have a host of high-end features, such as a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a USB Type-C port. Like last year’s OnePlus One, the Two is expected to be priced well below other flagships, essentially at cost. Hopefully this time around, the company is able to sort out its issues actually selling the product and interested customers won’t have to jump through hoops to snag an invite to buy one. Also interesting, OnePlus says it will officially announce the phone through a virtual reality press conference, displayed on Google Cardboard VR units. Will that be enough to make OnePlus stand out in the maelstrom of news that week? Not if the next company has anything to say about it.

Nokia has a surprise in store

There’s one more thing coming next Wednesday, something nobody really expected. Nokia is holding some sort of mysterious "VIP" event in Los Angeles. The tagline on in the invitation has some wordplay: "NOWHERE" and "NOW HERE." Speculation on what Nokia’s doing is pretty unformed so far, and to be blunt, many of the products you’d traditionally expect seem unlikely. It won’t be a phone, we’re sure, and though the company could do something with Here maps (note the wordplay), that seems a little small for a "VIP event hosted by Nokia Technologies."

So take a breath, a deep one, and then carb up. You’re going to need the energy. Next week is going to have a lot of tech news, and we’ll be covering it all, wall to wall, Windows to Windows.