Microsoft on Thursday unveiled Windows 11 as a redesigned computing platform that feels familiar but has numerous changed components. It offers new ways for users to create, learn, play, and connect with others globally.
Feeling familiar may take some adjusting, however. Windows 11 is built around a simplified user interface for productivity, creativity, and ease of use. The new design entails a smaller, centered taskbar and a new approach to task switching.
Other new features include a transparent sliding widgets panel that does not interfere with your desktop layout, an enhanced focus on gaming, and overall system performance. Windows 11 also comes with a completely rebuilt Microsoft Store.
The new Microsoft Store will give software developers a new openness to innovation and product development. It allows for more technical options to bring innovations to Microsoft 11 offerings.
Perhaps the biggest change is an effort to surpass mixed software ecosystems such as Chrome OS achieves with running Linux and Android applications. Windows 10 already has a Linux subsystem that allows developers and advanced Linux users to run Linux applications within the Windows OS.
Windows 11 will let users to bring their favorite Android tools to the new Windows operating system. That will happen via the Amazon Appstore, noted Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, during Microsoft’s June 24 Windows 11 introduction.
The Windows upgrade comes as an intersection of hardware and software with voice, touch, and pen functionality powered by an open hardware ecosystem, he said.
Overall, Windows 11 counts as a major release, which is why the name has been iterated, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.
“The platform’s security has been significantly improved, user interface changed, the store changed, interfaces improved with voice getting a massive improvement, and performance has been changed dramatically, lowering boot times and improving application performance,” he told TechNewsWorld.
What makes this upgrade interesting is the focus appears solidly on improving productivity and provides a more potent counterargument to Apple, noted Enderle. It assures that developers keep more of their money and bridges to the Android store. Plus, it does not mine users or developers for money.
“This version of Windows appears to more aggressively address the problems highlighted by the Windows 8 and Vista failures than Windows 10 did,” he offered.
Windows 11 has much fewer changes for change’s sake and more targeted changes focused on long-term pain points and needs, he added. These include better hardware-based security, voice-to-text that includes punctuation, addressing annoying performance issues with past versions, and keeping screen format intact when docking and undocking.
“The speech-to-text aspect is fascinating and begins the blend of Windows with the cloud as it uses a cloud-based AI capability to address punctuation and format automatically,” explained Enderle.
Differentiating From Apple
With Windows 11, Microsoft seems to be coming to terms with its place in the modern computing world. For instance, the integrated support for Android apps is probably the clearest sign of that, according to Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
“But that move also helps more clearly differentiate the company and Android phone/tablet vendors from Apple. You could argue that the gaming-focused features follow a similar path. The point is to make using Windows PCs as fully, seamlessly, and pleasantly functional as possible for users and partners,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Android app support could be a game-changer for Microsoft and Windows users, King added. Finally, Windows 11 will include new features and functions designed to measurably improve gaming performance and experience. The low monthly price and seamless access across all devices is a win-win deal for Windows 11 users.
Gaming on Windows
Microsoft’s new operating system will play circles around Windows 10 game performances. Playing games on Windows 11 will provide performance similarities to Xbox.
With Xbox Game Pass for PC or Ultimate, gamers get access to over 100 high-quality PC games with new games added all the time. Three elements advance the game-playing experience on Windows 11.
The performance boost results from superior graphics support with Auto HDR, direct storage on optimized hardware and driver support, and over 1,000 compatible games that support HDR, according to Sarah Bond, corporate vice president for gaming partnerships and business development at Microsoft.
Teams application integration directly is a major focus on connecting with work, family, and friends.
System updates should prove less troublesome as packet downloads will be 40 percent smaller and will take place in the background.
New screen snapping layouts will let users pick what suits their machine and workflow. New taskbar functionality will let users keep apps they were using before task interruptions docked in groups to make it easier than ever to get back to the desktop layout, noted Carmen Zlateff, partner director of Windows User Experience at Microsoft.
Redesigned virtual desktops will let users configure individual layouts and applications. That will make it easy to stay better organized based on tasks and activities.
No Forced Upgrade
Perhaps the most uncompromising change with adopting an upgrade to Windows 11 is the freedom of choice. Microsoft will not force upgrades. But Windows users who decide to upgrade can do so for free.
Windows 11 will reportedly be a free upgrade, much as Windows 10 was for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users. The main requirement will be system compatibility, but that is relatively modest, according to Pund-IT’s King.
Minimum system requirements to run Windows 11 include a 64-bit CPU, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of storage.
You can stay on Windows 10, agreed Enderle. Because of the security upgrade, many PCs will not be able to upgrade.
But Microsoft promised continued support for Windows 10 for those that cannot or do not want to upgrade, he said.
Currently, Windows 10 support ends in 2025, but these dates have moved out in the past, Enderle added.
Adoption Rate Could Be Wishful Thinking
Microsoft emphasized that Windows 11 will feel familiar to its customers. But the new OS will be somewhat different visually with a simplified taskbar and Start menu, observed King.
Adoption depends on how quickly the new features and functions become publicly available, how well they work, and how successfully Microsoft gets the news out.
How attracted users will be to adopting Windows 11 is hard to tell before the marketing campaign takes off, added Enderle. Windows 11 will not be released until this fall. He does not expect Microsoft to begin marketing it before that.
I’ve personally tested the build. I can say that it was not all that much different.