Many people questioned Microsoft’s ability to count when they followed up the awful Windows 8 with Windows 10. The company claimed that it did this to signify that so much had changed with its new operating system that it needed to skip a whole other number. Well, it turns out Microsoft can indeed count, as the tech giant confirmed the recent rumours and leaks and unveiled their next operating systems: Windows 11.
The only problem is that Microsoft has a habit of following up an excellent operating system with absolute stinkers (see: Windows XP and Windows 7 followed by Windows Vista and Windows 8, respectively). Will they break that trend with this one seeing as Windows 10 has been mostly successful? Well, let’s take a look at what we can expect from Microsoft’s new operating system that they will soon be forcing us to all upgrade to.
Perhaps the most immediate change that you will notice in Windows 11, is that the Start button and Start menu have been centered on the taskbar and no longer simply left-aligned. As rumoured, the company is also dropping Live Tiles and returning to the more typical launcher that we’ve seen in the past from them, with the version shown here similar to those you will find on ChromeOS or Android.
Microsoft had initially started off the development of this OS as Windows 10X with the idea of making a stripped-down OS that could work on dual-screen devices like their Surface Neo device. They have maintained some usability on working with a Dual Screen device or even with a larger screen through the idea of Snap Layouts, which allow you to quickly snap apps into various modes which the OS will support and make it far easier to use and view your apps in different ways simultaneous – making multi-monitor support far easier, while also allowing many different ways to multitask across different displays and resolutions. Arguably the best thing about the operating system.
Microsoft has also placed a lot of focus on the overall look and feel of the operating system and how it handled varying coloured backgrounds and light and dark modes, to cater for a wide variety of preferences from every type of user. The same applies to how the OS can be customized through different Windows Widgets and touch gestures. Widgets were introduced in Windows 10 and offer a personalised feed, powered by AI that gives you updates on the different things you might want. It now slides in from the left-hand side of Windows 11, and you can also make it full screen. Built-in widgets include a news feed, weather, and maps. There will also be a widget that lets you tip local creators, which is a nice nod to supporting the people that make the content that keeps us entertained.
No more Skype or Cortana
And for those who were frustrated by how Microsoft was still somehow supporting Skype or the aging Cortana, you will be happy to know that both are no longer featured in this OS. Not to say they are gone completely as they can be installed if you want, but they are no longer integrated into the OS. The same applies to OneNote, Paint 3D, and 3D Viewer, which are no longer standard but can still be installed if you need them. Also gone are tablet mode or S mode, as Microsoft sees these OS changes as working across both laptops and tablets equally.
Better Teams and Office integration
What is integrated into the OS though is Microsoft Teams, which is already playing a bigger role in the entire Office Suite and will play an even bigger role on the broader Windows OS too, serving as the default way people can communicate with others through the OS. This may not be good news for those who aren’t fans of Teams, though you can still use your other preferred communication tools should you wish. Overall, the Office experience has been improved as well and Office will be optimised to run well on it. As always though – and understandable given it is where Microsoft makes a lot of its money – Office will remain an additional fee and be purchased either standalone or be automatically upgraded for Windows 365 subscribers.
Perhaps the most interesting move though is the inclusion of Android Apps on Windows, through the Amazon App Store. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. We already knew that Microsoft was considering bringing Android apps to its operating system to make things both easier for app developers and allow it to instantly gain access to the millions of apps already available. This integration will allow people to easily use all the same apps they do on their phone through Windows (which they can achieve due to an Android kernel integrated into the OS). Apps will be listed in the new Windows store and can be pinned to the taskbar or snapped alongside traditional Windows apps. Microsoft is also partnering with Intel to use its Intel Bridge technology to make this a reality, although the Android apps will still work with both AMD and Arm-based systems.
Surprisingly though, Microsoft is using Amazon’s Appstore (which will be integrated into the Windows store) as the central hub for these apps rather than Google’s own Android app store. It’s not clear as to why the company has made this decision, though they perhaps just found more willing partners in Amazon to make this dream a reality or if it was the fact that the two companies have head offices not far from each other that perhaps made this work easier. It will be interesting to see how all these Android apps perform on Windows, as I suspect there may be compatibility issues initially. With developers no longer needing to worry about a separate Windows app to maintain, they will put more effort into ensuring their apps scale better to operate on bigger screens.
Performance and Minimum Specifications
Of course, none of these big changes matter if the underlying performance of the operating system is not worth it and Microsoft claims to have made some big strides in this department, without revealing too many specifics. Importantly, Windows updates will be 40 percent smaller and more efficient as they now happen in the background due to a huge restructure in how the OS has been architectured. The company is also working hard on memory management – as they have shown with their Chromium Edge browser – to ensure that the memory utilisation of most apps is kept to a minimum. Incidentally, the use of Android apps may also help this, as many apps are designed for lower-spec phones meaning they should run more than optimally many PCs.
Speaking of specs, Microsoft has listed the following minimum specifications for the new OS:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
- RAM: 4 gigabytes (GB)
- Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device
- System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable
- TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
- Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver
- Display: High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9-inches diagonally, 8 bits per colour channel
- Internet connection and Microsoft accounts: Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft account to complete device setup on first use. Switching a device out of Windows 11 Home in S mode also requires internet connectivity. For all Windows 11 editions, internet access is required to perform updates and to download and take advantage of some features. A Microsoft account is required for some features.
Those are some pretty decent specs and although it’s an increase from the minimum requirements of Windows 10, it’s the sort of specs that even low-end machines can meet and as such should ensure most people can make the upgrade to Windows 11 once it’s available. We don’t have any details on when that will be, though Microsoft is hoping to launch it around October of this year – along with some new hardware. Most importantly in this department though is that Microsoft will be offering the upgrade for free to all existing Windows users, to hopefully help with the migration across to the new operating system – although people will understandably be cautious and perhaps wait to see if the OS is actually all it is cut out to be and not a dud.
So, overall, some exciting updates from Microsoft with a new operating system that promises to be a big upgrade from the current experience. Windows 10 has been a fantastic OS for Microsoft but has started to age and hopefully with these new changes, Windows 11 will be able to improve on the legacy of its predecessor.
If you want to have a more in-depth look at Windows 11 in action, you can check out the full 45-min video of Microsoft’s launch event below.
Last Updated: June 25, 2021