The answer to the third question was easy (Yes!) but the first was a crucial detail still missing, until today. There were early leaks suggesting that there would be a new starter box in July and then the PHB (with likely all the rules you need to play) in August, just in time for Gen Con, and that has been confirmed.
For all the news, product descriptions, and covers, I turn your attention to the breaking news compilation over at ENWorld. The Player’s Handbook will be released in August (and be available at Gen Con), followed by a staggered release (like 3rd edition had) with the Monster Manual in September and the Dungeon Master’s Guide in October. As the early leaks suggested, each book will be a hardcover 320p book for $50 MSRP, which (give or take) is largely the cost of doing business these days.
In October of 2013, we saw the final playtest packet release, when changes were still be made and experimented with. Afterwards, more of the game was locked down so that the internal R&D team could flesh everything else out and work on smaller, more targeted groups for various options in the game. The product descriptions for the new Dungeons & Dragons boasts that over 175,000 people contributed playtest data, which undoubtably shaped a better product, as well as being smart marketing. How the final game will end up, though, is known only to Wizards of the Coast R&D.
One noticeable difference between this launch and the one of 4th edition was how much WotC has embraced licensing out products that are important to the business. The news of a partnership with WizKids for D&D minis (and Dungeons & Dragons Attack Wing) has been known for a while now and makes sense. However, the news today of fan-favorite Kobold Press (makes of Open Design products and formerly Kobold Quaterly) developing the core release adventures is a surprise, and a pretty smart move. How much this edition will embrace the open concept and letting others develop for it without a licensing agreement is still undeclared, however.
Regardless, while there are some open questions still, this is concrete news that Dungeons & Dragons (no longer Next, or even 5e, just Dungeons & Dragons) is coming soon. The most important question, of course, is if the game is worth it for you, which we won’t know until the game is closer to release. But at least we know when that is, and I for one am still excited to see it come.