Microsoft will make Windows 11 available as a free upgrade at the end of this year

Microsoft announced Windows 11 as expected on Thursday. Compared to Windows 10, the OS will have, among other things, a changed start menu, a centrally positioned taskbar and Teams integrated. Windows 11 will be released at the end of this year.

According to Microsoft, there has been a shift in PC usage over the past 18 months as a result of working from home, making the PC more than just practical and functional, but also more personal, something that would have inspired the company in building the new Windows generation. At the same time, Panos Panay, chief product officer for Windows at Microsoft, talks about a “familiar place,” which seems to hint at the great similarities with Windows 10.

Some innovations of Windows 11 were already known via the leaked ISO, such as the start menu that is in the middle instead of the left of the OS and no longer shows the Live Tiles. The start menu now shows, among other things, recently used files and Microsoft announced that this can also include files on Android or iOS.

The extended functionality of placing windows in half or corner of the screen is what Microsoft calls Snap Layouts, and Snap Groups lets you see which windows are grouped in a single view via the toolbar. The ability to create virtual desktop environments is already there in Windows 10 with Task View and in version 11 Microsoft calls these Desktops, with Timeline disappearing from Task View.

Teams and Auto HDR

Skype will disappear from Windows with the arrival of the new OS and it will have to make way for Microsoft Teams. Microsoft places Teams Chat on the taskbar by default and allows users to communicate with other Teams users via text, voice or image, even if they are using the app on Android or iOS. It will also be possible to mute Teams users and start presentations directly from the taskbar.

Users will soon be able to slide a feed with widgets into the image from the left that provide information about, for example, the weather and news. Third parties can develop widgets to expand the number with new functionality. In addition, Microsoft is talking about using AI for widgets to personalize the feed.

In terms of gaming, Microsoft highlights some features of the Xbox Series X and S that are coming to Windows 11. For example, there will be support for Auto HDR, to give SDR games made for DirectX or later an HDR-like display when using a monitor that supports HDR. The feature was already included in the Insider Preview versions of Windows 10. DirectStorage is also coming to Windows 11. This storage API enables fast loading times by better handling higher I/O requests in combination with NVMe storage. Requires NVMe SSD with PCIe 3.0 or later and a GPU with DirectX 12 Shader Model 6.0 or later. Microsoft already announced last year that the API would come to the PC.

Win32 and Android in the Store

One part that was not yet in the leaked version was the modified Microsoft Store. In addition to Universal Windows Apps and Progressive Web App, this will also contain Win32 programs. Developers can use PWABuilder3 to create pwa apps and the Windows App SDK will be supported to integrate W11 functions into programs. Developers can integrate their own payment system and keep their own revenue in full, or use Microsoft payment system and then remit 15 percent. In doing so, Microsoft is trying to differentiate itself from the stores of Apple and Google, which have been criticized for their payment rates and felt compelled to lower them for smaller developers. Games cannot contain their own payment system in Microsoft’s store.

Perhaps the biggest news was that Android apps are coming to Windows 11. These can also be found in the Microsoft Store, but are actually from the Amazon Appstore. To make this possible, the company uses unspecified Intel Bridge technology. Microsoft will announce more in the coming months about the arrival of Android apps to Windows. Microsoft previously tried to persuade developers to port Android apps to Windows 10, but dropped the project.

Android apps are optimized for touchscreens and therefore especially suitable for tablets. For use in combination with tablets, Windows 11 should bring more improvements. For example, Microsoft has placed more space between icons to make them more clickable with a finger and new gestures have been added. In addition, Microsoft promises well-functioning voice recognition for typing and operating commands.

Windows 11 should come to Windows 10 PCs as a free update by the end of this year. The company is making available a PC Health Check app that allows users to check if their PC is eligible. Those who don’t want to wait can use the Windows Insider program and install an early build of the software from next week. An upgrade will be comparable to a Windows 10 update, the promise is, and existing apps will continue to work.

Businesses can deploy Endpoint Manager, Windows Update for Business, and Autopilot for management, and Windows Enterprise and Education customers can test the OS on Azure Virtual Desktop.

The system requirements show that there will also be an S-mode variant of Windows 11. This is the stripped-down version that retailers can put on new PCs and that allows users to use only apps from the Microsoft Store and Edge as a browser, but can be converted to Pro. The mode led to confusion among users. It is also striking that a trusted platform module 2.0 is required to run the OS.

Processor: 1GHz or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or soc
Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device
System firmware: Suitable for UEFI Secure Boot
RPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0
Graphics Card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or newer with WDDM 2.0 driver
Display: 720p display larger than 9″ diagonal, 8 bits per color channel
Internet connection and Microsoft accounts: The Windows 11 Home edition requires an internet connection and a Microsoft account to complete the installation of the device on first use.

To turn off a device in Windows 11 Home S mode, an internet connection is also required.

All Windows 11 editions require Internet access to perform updates and download and use certain features.