A redesigned Microsoft Store, integration with Teams and improved security requirements are among the key features of Microsoft’s new Windows 11 operating system, the tech giant revealed during a virtual event Thursday.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the event that Windows 11 aims to provide users more choice and agency over the applications they use and that all Windows devices are improved for app development and consumption. The new OS is designed to weather future digital transformation, Nadella said.
“That‘s our aspiration with Windows 11—to be the platform for the next web, the next transformational software category, the next personalized content business,” he said. “A platform can only serve society if its rules allow for this foundational innovation and category creation.”
“This is the first version of a new era of Windows,” he said. “We‘re building for the next decade and beyond.”
During the virtual event, Microsoft executives emphasized that the move from Windows 10 to Windows 11 should feel more like an update install rather than a full-on migration. Windows 11 will be a free update to Windows 10 and have annual major feature updates instead of Windows 10’s twice-a-year updates.
Migration “will be a familiar, easier process, not a project,” said Wangui McKelvey, general manager of Microsoft 365.
The next update to Windows 10 will also provide feature updates to keep customers secure while planning the move to Windows 11.
And Windows 10 isn’t done just yet. Steve Dispensa, Microsoft vice president of product, enterprise mobility and security, declined to say whether the update to Windows 10 in the second half of this year is the last Windows 10 update.
But Windows 10 users will have the ability to run both OSes alongside each other with their current volume licensing and subscription benefits.
More information on Windows 11 is expected at Inspire later this year. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know.
Improved User Interactions
Windows 11 will come with improved voice recognition, allowing for automatic punctuation and voice commands like telling Windows to type phrases and even deleting mistakes, according to Microsoft.
The new OS has expanded gestures and digital pen interactions so users can type through talking and write with a digital pen in almost any app. Windows 11 has haptics to improve pen use, allowing users to feel and hear vibrations as they click, edit, write and sketch, said Philip McClure, product marketing and communications manager. The goal is for users to get the same feeling as when they use a phone stylus.
Microsoft also has moved the taskbar to the centre of the screen in Windows 11 for finding files on the PC, in OneDrive and on the web. The menu uses the cloud and power of Microsoft 365 to see recent files no matter the platform and device previously used.
The taskbar stays in place even when tablet users detach their keyboard, said McClure.
Users that have utilised the ability to see two windows at once on their devices will have “snap layouts” on Windows 11, which are tailored to screen size, said Carmen Zlateff, Microsoft’s partner director of Windows User Experience. "Snap groups” are the collection of apps users had open before starting a new task, located in the taskbar to help with switching apps.
Users physically moving laptops away from a docking station will also no longer worry about needing to reconfigure their app layout, Zlateff said.
For tablet users, touch targets are enlarged to make resizing windows easier, and windows will stack on top of each other when users rotate the tablet.
Integrations With Teams, Office
One of the first Microsoft Teams integrations with Windows 11 revealed Thursday is a way to more easily mute or unmute microphones, said McKelvey.
Windows 11 users will have the ability to match Office with their Windows theme, including dark mode, white, colourful or dark grey.
And packaging Windows with Microsoft 365 technologies and tools including Azure Active Directory, Intune, Endpoint Analytics, Autopilot and Cloud Configuration is a way for channel partners to offer scalable, cloud-based services including deployment, management and support, according to the tech giant.
Android apps are coming to Windows, with integration possibilities for the taskbar and the start menu. Microsoft is using Intel Bridge Technology to make integrations “seamless and smooth,” Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay said. And a partnership with Amazon means users can find Microsoft Store apps through the Amazon Appstore.
Developers publishing apps to the Microsoft Store can use the tech giant’s commerce engine, their own or a third-party engine. Not using Microsoft’s engine means developers avoid a revenue share with the tech giant. Microsoft Store will support published apps regardless of framework and packaging technology, including Win32, .NET, UWP, React Native, Java and Progressive Web Apps (PWA), according to Microsoft.
“It‘s still the safest and most secure way for you to get your apps on Windows,” Panay said. “We’re making sure every app you need is there to create, learn, do and play the way you want to.”
Apps coming soon to the new store experience include Adobe Creative Cloud, Disney+, TikTok, Zoom, Teams, Visual Studio, Notepad and Paint. The new store will be available for Windows 10 and Windows 11 users, according to Microsoft.
A pop-up store feature aims to simplify installing apps from a browser so users can stay on task while waiting for an install to finish, according to Microsoft.
Security And Management
Microsoft has worked with OEM partners to “raise security baselines” for Windows 11, making it zero-trust-ready, according to the tech giant.
Global systems integrators will have full control over Windows Update content including security updates and firmware. They can also keep customer devices protected through cloud management services and tools, according to Microsoft.
Windows 11 will have hardware-based isolation, secure boot, hypervisor code integrity, encryption and malware prevention automatically turned on, according to the company.
And for users still planning out the move from Windows 10 to Windows 11, the next update to Windows 10 will also provide feature updates to keep customers secure while planning the move to Windows 11.
The Windows 10 update coming in the second half of the year will have new features like Universal Print and Windows Autopilot for management and deployment.
Users can move PCs eligible for Windows 11 as soon as this fall or run Windows 10 and 11 together, managing both from Microsoft Endpoint Manager, Dispensa said.
As Windows 11 goes into Windows Insider, enterprise and education customers can try it out on the recently renamed Azure Virtual Desktop.