Microsoft officially announce Windows 11: Here’s what we know

July 14, 2021

The last major release of the world’s most used operating system, Windows 10, was in 2015.

It’s been a highly popular iteration, but people have been wondering for a while whether a successor was in the works.

After screenshots were leaked earlier in the month, Microsoft officially announced Windows 11 on June 24th, complete with a slate of new features and changes.

These include aesthetic changes such as a centred start menu and rounded corners as well as a number of productivity and user experience features.

If you’re a Mac user some of these changes may look a little familiar but this is still a Windows OS through and through.

Here’s everything we know about the proposed features, when you can get your hands on it and whether you’ll even be able to use it.

What can I get now?

This is just the official announcement. It’s not going to be available to current Windows 10 users and on new devices until later this year. Microsoft have hinted at an October release but there’s no guarantee of this and it could easily end up being later than that.

However, if you’re a Windows Insider you can download a preview version of the OS now. If you’re keen to try out (most of) the new features now, you’ll need to sign up if you’re not already.

Of course, if you’re doing this, you’ll have to bear in mind that this isn’t finished yet and will almost certainly have some bugs.

The preview can be installed regardless of your PC’s specs, but the same can’t be said for the main release later in the year. Indeed, this complication has already received some flack.

Will I be able to download Windows 11?

One thing that has taken people by surprise with this announcement is the proposed system requirements that will be needed to download it.

With previous iterations of Windows OS most users could expect to be able to upgrade without issue, but this one seems to have come with more exclusivity.

The issue however doesn’t appear to be how powerful your PC is, but rather the hardware’s inbuilt security features.

One of the requirements is an 8th generation Intel processor or equivalent. This is primarily due to greater security guarantees for this tech. There is also the supposed need for a TPM (trusted platform module) in the build, which helps authenticate hardware.

Whilst these are becoming increasingly common, there’s no guarantee that your PC will have one. Even with a little leniency in the requirements, computers as little as 3 years old could be deemed incompatible with the new OS, even though they are more than capable of running it.

The commitment to security is to be admired, and it will undoubtedly be a very secure release, but it’s still a frustrating move from Microsoft, not to mention not being environmentally friendly, if the inevitable result is 100s of thousands of binned PCs.

Still, the fairly significant amount of time between now and the release date will allow them to iron out creases in their release strategy and also give people an opportunity to decide if this new system is worth the leap anyway.

What are the features?

So, what does Windows 11 actually offer?

Like with macOS it would appear Microsoft’s plan is to release yearly updates from this point onwards but they’re kicking off with some fairly major, if not revolutionary, changes.

Indeed, as we mentioned above, the update schedule isn’t the only thing that could be inspired by their major competitor.

Look

From the images and video released so far, it’s clear to see the change in the aesthetic and visual style of this OS.

The most prominent change appears to be the start button and menu moving to the centre of the desktop. This is also supposed to dynamically change depending on the time of day.

Much of the interface also has rounded corners as opposed to the sharp ones of Windows 10 and the release comes with some colourful wallpapers and light and dark mode built-in.

Touch

The centring of the start menu and frequently used apps appear to be one of a number of changes that show Microsoft optimising for touch.

It’s clear that this is something they’ve focused on, as many Windows laptops are now touch compatible and one of the USP’s of Microsoft’s own Surface range is their PC/tablet hybrid functionality.

The ability to more easily access apps and tools with your fingers is built into this operating system, and touch gestures on-screen and trackpad offer much greater flexibility.

Productivity and UI

At the heart of Windows is exactly that, windows. The new Snap Layouts feature helps you arrange your activity in multiple new ways, not just plonking them side by side.

That might be in columns, more of a gallery view or something else. The OS will even remember the positioning of your windows for future use even if you’re using an external monitor.

User experience also sees an upgrade with the Desktops feature, which allows you to group together different programs for different times and purposes.

Windows widgets have also had a major overhaul and are easily accessible from the desktop. In time, users will no doubt be able to get third-party widgets.

Apps

Standard parts of the OS such as settings and file explorer see fairly significant changes such as showing the different categories in a column down the side of the app.

Microsoft Teams appears to be integrated as standard into the start menu suggesting Skype may have gone completely from Windows.

The Microsoft store has also seen a major redesign. As well as enabling you to view, access, buy and download a variety of popular programs directly from this store you can access Android apps here too. Windows 11 will work smoothly with these apps, creating a seamless multi-device experience.

Gaming

Finally, the other major changes we know about so far concern the gaming features.

The Xbox app has changed to become Game Pass from which you will be able to buy and manage your games. But there is also a focused effort to make the system more suitable for gamers.

For example, there is greater HDR graphics support and faster downloading.

Should I be excited?

Based on what we mentioned above, unless you’re already a Windows Insider or particularly keen to see what’s on offer, we’d hold off on getting the preview.

Especially as you may have to downgrade again to Windows 10 once the official release comes out. That’s if they haven’t reduced their system requirements somewhat.

Still, despite that potential disappointment, this does look like a pretty cool system and would make a nice upgrade.

There are definitely neat changes here that could help Microsoft stay at the top of that computing pyramid for years to come.

Stay tuned for more updates.

If you’ve got any other Windows or Microsoft related queries, let us know and we’d be happy to chat.

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