With every consecutive version of Windows, Microsoft has had a history of making one great version, followed by an utter disaster. However, with the introduction of Windows 11 in an online event held Friday, it seems like Microsoft may finally have broken the cycle.
The new OS comes with a major redesign to well, just about everything. The taskbar is now centred, and so is the start menu. There’s been a major visual overhaul to just about every visual part of the OS. Windows now get rounded corners, there are no live tiles, integrated Microsoft Teams support, and you can now run Android apps natively on Windows.
The system is designed for hybrid work and learning. While a specific date hasn’t been announced yet, Windows 11 is expected to arrive in the next few months as a free update. The Insider builds for the OS will be available starting next week.
Android apps now run natively on Windows
For the first time, you can now run Android apps natively on Windows. However, this isn’t as simple as it sounds. For starters, Android apps are fetched through the Amazon App Store App, which users will have to download first from the Windows Store.
Users would be required to sign in to their Amazon account when downloading apps as well. While there isn’t a 100% overlap between Amazon’s and Google’s respective app stores, Amazon is pretty close, so you’ll have no problems finding the most popular apps anyway.
Intel’s Bridge technology powers the whole thing. While this raises the question of whether or not these features will work on AMD computers, Microsoft confirmed in a statement to The Verge that they would.
There haven’t been any notable improvements to the Windows Store apart from Microsoft, making it more accessible to publishers. However, first and third-party apps such as Microsoft Teams, Visual Studio, Disney+, Adobe Creative Cloud, Zoom and Canva are coming to the store.
developers and independent software vendors can now publish their apps on the Microsoft Store regardless of whether they’re built as a Win32, Progressive Web App (PWA), or Universal Windows App (UWP) or any other app framework
Lastly, developers can now also bring their own payment models in the store and get to keep 100% of the revenue or continue using Microsoft’s commerce with an 85/15 revenue split.
Windows 11 gets a visual overhaul
One of the most striking features of the latest version of Windows is its very modern, smooth and glassy design. As mentioned above, the Start menu is now centred, along with all the icons you’d pin to your taskbar. However, users can always revert this to the left if they prefer.
The Start menu itself has been redesigned and now has an app icon grid instead of live tiles. The menu also syncs with the cloud to show your recent Microsoft 365 files regardless of what device you view them on, including Android or iOS.
Then there are snap layouts, groups and desktops to help users quickly arrange multiple windows in a predefined layout. Users now also have the ability to create separate desktops for different things. For example, you could have a desktop for work but switch it to a gaming desktop when you get back home.
Users now also get a personalised feed for news and information, much like Google Discover, except it comes with widgets.
Upcoming Windows OS also promises an enhanced gaming experience
Microsoft claims that Windows 11 will be the best PC gaming experience so far. There’s Auto HDR support for starters, which will automatically add HDR enhancements on games built on DirectX 11 or higher.
Microsoft also unveiled a technology called DirectStorage that can load games even faster with an NMVe SSD. DirectStorage loads assets to the GPU without hogging up CPU usage, allowing PCs to load detailed game worlds without massive load times.
As always, Windows boasts the broadest hardware support in the world, with just about every peripheral being compatible. A new membership called Xbox Game Pass for PC has also been announced to give gamers access to a library of over 100 games, including PC games from Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda.
An EA Play membership is included free of cost with Game Pass for PC (or Ultimate). Members will also get access to Xbox Cloud Gaming on Windows PC’s via web browsers. Cloud gaming will be directly added into the Xbox app on PC, as Microsoft recently announced.
Security, privacy and performance on Windows 11
The leaked build for Windows 11 that’s floating on the web took a lot of people by surprise because of its uncanny stability. But, of course, the reason for that could be that Windows 11’s build foundation resembles Windows 10.
Features like hardware-based isolation, encryption, and malware prevention are enabled by default. Microsoft is also simplifying the steps to deploy Windows Hello for Business, making going passwordless easier. Windows 11 is Zero Trust ready.
The company has also put in work to deploy Windows 11 as similar an experience as with Windows 10. Management tools like Microsoft Endpoint Manager, cloud configuration, Windows Update for Business, and Autopilot will continue to function. Windows Enterprise and Education customers can also test Windows 11 out on Azure Virtual Desktop as soon as it becomes available in the Windows Insider Program.
How to get your hands on Windows 11 preview builds?
Windows 11 is launching this holiday season, and the preview builds will start rolling out starting next week. If you want to try out these builds, sign up for the Windows Insider Program here.
The minimum requirements for testing out Windows 11 have also been updated. You can download the PC Health Check app to check if your PC meets the new requirements or check them here.