After a long series of leaks, Microsoft announced Windows 11 overnight, introducing a new look, new features and performance improvements.
The new Microsoft Windows 11 includes a complete new user experience designed for productivity, creativity and ease.
It all begins with the new centre mounted Start button which has a translucent effect which Chief Product Officer Panos Panay says is part of the way new users will be guided through using the new Windows 11.
The Start menu drops the Live Tiles which Microsoft introduced in Windows 8, and puts more of a focus on your apps, as well as including an integrated search function making it easier to find your apps and recommended documents on your PC or on the web.
For those who like a darker style of Windows, Microsoft says they’ve also updated both light and dark modes, which look brilliant.
Microsoft is introducing new usability features with Windows 11, including new features: Snap Layouts, Snap Groups and Desktops.
Snap Layouts improve on Windows ability to easily snap apps to the side of your screen, and expands it with new layouts tailored for your screen resolution. You can even save these layouts in ‘Snap Groups’ which are saved to your task bar, letting you get back to what you were doing faster.
Microsoft is also improving Virtual Desktop support, letting you create individual workspaces with their own wallpaper and layouts. This will make it easier to have a work desktop, a gaming desktop etc.
The new Snap Layouts, Groups and Desktops also help with multi-monitor support for laptops. When you undock from your external monitor your groups are transferred onto your laptop, and will then re-scale your working layout to your monitor when you return.
It looks cleaner, but will also run faster as well with the seemingly ever-present Windows updates now 40% smaller.
Microsoft is also integrating Teams directly into Windows. The icon will be a default on the new Task Bar layout, but includes integration into Windows which supplants the previous Skype support.
Microsoft is also revamping the way they do widgets in Windows 11. Rather than fill your desktops, Microsoft is using the a panel which swipes in from the left, similar to the ‘Discover’ feed in Android.
The Windows Widget space can show you quick glanceable traffic, weather, or calendar information or anything developers can come up with. You’ll also find a news feed in there, with Microsoft also announcing you’ll be able to tip creators who show up in your feed if you like their content.
The new Windows also looks like it’s made for touch access, because it is. Microsoft has revamped their touch interface to make it work for you, not the other way around.
Microsoft says they’ve revamped the touch targets and there’s now subtle cues to make resizing and moving windows easier. You will also see automatic rotations for apps in side-by-side layouts switch to vertical when you rotate the device.
For those who use the virtual keyboard, it too has been redesigned to be more like the mobile keyboards we are all used to on our phones. The new keyboard can be themed and supports key features from mobile like gesture typing, the ability to scroll back and forth swiping on the space key, voice typing and yes it includes Emoji and GIF support.
There’s also improvements for anyone using Stylus on Windows with haptic support being introduced.
For any Gamers, Microsoft is bringing a lot of improvements to gaming including AutoHDR which updates lighting and colour automatically to High Dynamic Range. Microsoft first introduced this on the Xbox Series X|S consoles, but is now bringing it to Windows 11. AutoHDR will work on over 1,000 games says Microsoft including Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, Rocket League, DayZ and more.
The new Windows 11 will see tighter integration with Xbox, with Sarah Bond, Corporate Vice President of Xbox announcing that Xbox Game Pass is also being integrated into Windows 11 through a new Xbox app. This new app will also integrate their xCloud gaming service to let you stream games from Microsoft to your PC, which possibly doesn’t have the grunt to run games locally.
Microsoft Store – Android Apps are coming!
As part of the Windows 11 launch, Microsoft is announcing a revamp of the Microsoft Store, which they hope will be the central location to download all your apps, be they native Windows apps, PWAs or Android apps – yes, Android apps are coming to Windows.
Microsoft is using Intel Bridge Tech to run Android apps sourced from the Amazon App store on Windows. You’ll be able to run native apps from your favourite developers. Given the Amazon App Store has previously had issues keeping updated apps in their library, this will be an interesting one to see play out.
Once up and running your Android apps can be incorporated into your Snap Layouts and Snap Groups to better help your workflows.
Part of running a store like this is ensuring that third party developers feel comfortable, and obviously cognisant of the ongoing Apple/Epic court battle, Microsoft has announced that Developers can be in the Microsoft store with their own “commerce engine”, implementing their own payment systems and Microsoft gets no cut.
In terms of availability, Microsoft hasn’t announced a release date, but did talk about ‘holidays’, so stay tuned later in the year. Microsoft has said that Windows 11 will be a free update for Windows 10 users, and will be deployed just like a Windows update.
Microsoft is updating the minimum requirements for Windows 11, now requiring a 64-bit processor, 4GB RAM and 64GB Storage. You’ll also need a 9″ 720p display, and UEFI, Secure Boot, TPM 2.0 and a graphics card capable of DirectX 12.
Want a closer look at Windows 11, here’s their sizzle reel